Entries in Spending (44)


Christmas Shopping Strong in Final Week: Report

Ingram Publishing/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- More holiday shoppers procrastinated until the last week of the shopping season, but a mall trade group survey suggests they made up for it.

The International Council of Shopping Centers says revenues rose .9 percent for the final week compared to the week before, and were up 4.5 percent from the same week last year.

Gift card sales, they say, accounted for 17.9 percent of all sales during the week.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Consumer Confidence Surges in December

Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Consumer confidence in the economy surged well beyond the expected 59 percent in December to 64.5 percent, up from a revised November number of 55.2 percent, the Conference Board said Tuesday.

Many analysts consider consumer confidence an important economic indicator because consumer spending accounts for 70 percent of the U.S. economy.  But these latest numbers don't impress economist Peter Morici of the University of Maryland, who says that other figures -- such as overall unemployment -- are more significant.

“We see consumer confidence and other similar indicators jump up and down and we tend to get a mixed bag when that goes on,” Morici said.

“What matters are the hard numbers -- the number of jobs, the number of homes sold…housing prices,” Morici said.

Though confidence remains well below the historical average, a brightening sentiment could lead to more spending in the New Year.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


6 Tips for Holiday Gift Card Giving

iStockphoto/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Americans are expected to spend $27.8 billion on gift cards this holiday season. And whether you give or receive them, there are things you should know to get the most out of your gift card.

Gerri Willis from Fox Business Network appeared on ABC’s Good Morning America to answer questions and share tips about gift cards.

  • Watch out for fees. There are two types of gift card fees: shipping charges and service charges. Thirty percent of retailer gift cards can charge for shipping, so before you order a gift card, check to see if you’ll be charged for that. Service charges can include inactivity fees, purchase fees or monthly fees. Check on the gift card’s packaging or the company’s website for the fine print about fees. Starting in January, fees must be clearly disclosed on the card or its packaging.
  • Trade in cards you aren’t using for ones you will. Twenty-five percent of consumers have cards left over from last year’s holiday season. To unlock their value, trade in an old card at or or You can buy, sell or trade cards there, though you may not get the full value.
  • Get the rewards. Some vendors will give you more points for buying gift cards than redeeming points for cash. For example, Citibank's rewards program required 8,000 thank you points to get $50 cash back, but you only need 5,000 thank you points for a $50 gift card.
  • Go e-card. If what you really want is ease of purchase, think about buying your card online. Fifty-one percent of gift cards can be bought electronically. Plus, if you leave the card at home, you can still access the benefits through email.
  • Get the right card to the right person. If your family members purchase many gift cards, you might think about coming up with a gift card wish list. That way, you won’t be sighing over the Talbot’s card in your wallet and wishing it was from Anthropologie.
  • Be frugal. A Consumer Reports study shows that two-thirds of people using a gift card end up spending more than the face value of the card. Who doesn’t, right?  But in a recession or economic pullback, it makes sense to hold the line. It’s a gift after all, not an excuse for binging.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Americans Step Up Borrowing; Fewer Behind on Credit Card Payments

Comstock/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- American consumers stepped up their borrowing in October, according to the Federal Reserve, charging slightly more on credit cards and reversing a recent trend.

The credit reporting firm TransUnion notes that people are still cautious; less than 1 percent of credit card customers are 90 days behind on payments.

“Credit card delinquency rates have been near all-time lows and continue to hover in that area,” says Steve Chaouki, vice president of financial services at TransUnion.

“In the past, consumers used to pay their mortgages first,” Chaouki said. “Now we’re seeing them paying their credit cards first.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Revised GDP Figures No Holiday Cheer for Retailers

Comstock Images/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- Retailers are bracing for a tepid holiday sales season after the Commerce Department revised third-quarter GDP figures downward to 2 percent on Tuesday.

The Bureau of Economic Analysis had previously estimated that the economy grew at 2.5 percent for the quarter ended Sept. 31.  The updated figure is based on a more complete source data, the bureau said. In the second quarter, real GDP increased 1.3 percent.

Guy LeBas, chief fixed income strategist with Janney Capital Markets, said the source of the downward revision in the third quarter was reduced inventory growth. LeBas said one driver of the fall in inventory was lower commodity prices in the third quarter. For example, lower oil prices lead to oil inventories that are worth less.

The other issue is that companies are stocking up less.

“Retailers are little cautious about the holiday season so they are less willing to stock up if they have a less good idea of sales,” he said. “From our perspective we think the holiday season is going to be better than what are rather dismal predictions. So we’ll have another good, not great, holiday.”

Growth in the third quarter also reflected increases in personal consumption and in non-residential fixed investment, and a smaller decrease in state and local government spending, the Commerce Department said. Imports decreased and exports accelerated, partly offset by a larger decrease in private inventory investment.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Retail Sales Show Largest Gain in 7 Months

Stockbyte/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Retail sales increased 1.1 percent in September to $395.5 billion, the biggest gain in seven months -- thanks in large part to auto sales, the Commerce Department reported on Friday.

Motor vehicle and parts sales rose 3.9 percent, the largest gain since March 2010. Auto sales rose almost 10 percent in September to 13.1 million cars per year, the auto makers reported in early October, higher than what many analysts had expected.

Guy LeBas, chief fixed-income strategist with Janney Capital Markets, told ABC News earlier that auto sales “are the single most consistent aspect of consumer spending and, for most people, the largest ticket item they’ll buy in an average five year period.”

Consumer spending overall comprises almost two thirds of the country’s GDP.

Many economists tune into September’s retail sales, which includes back to school shopping, for clues about the strength of the holiday shopping season.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Shopping Secrets: Ways Supermarkets Get You to Spend More Money

Hemera/Thinkstock(NEW YORK) -- The next time you take your weekly trip to the grocery store, take a look around you. It turns out all of the minute details -- the fresh flowers greeting you in the entrance, the shining vegetables on the tables -- may all be ploys by the supermarket to get you to spend more than you thought you would.

"We're priming the shopper to tune in to a kind of experience," said Liz Crawford, author of The Shopper Economy. "It's fall, it's a farmer's market. ... We're here at the farm stand."

Soon, you're immersed in the aisles, where items the store wants you to pair together are strategically placed next to each other. Next to the barrel of apples, for example, is caramel.

"So while I'm buying the apples, I'm thinking, 'Oh, you know, I could also buy some caramel and have caramel apples. Great idea.' Now I've got an impulse buy," she said. "That's a cross-sell."

The products you see, where they are displayed, even what you smell can all be a part of a sophisticated, market-tested method to get you to buy.

The apples, sitting in their pretty little baskets, look like they're straight from the farm. They put you in a pleasant mood, thinking of autumn. That's what they call a "symbolic."

Vegetables also are staged to excite the senses. They are sprayed with water every few minutes -- giving them a fragrant smell and a glistening appearance. Nearby, the cheese stand is loaded with choices so you have to linger to find the exact kind you want.

"So while I may have come for some feta, wow, here's some crumble bleu cheese, which I can have as an alternative in my salad during the day," said Crawford.

Another means of persuasion is packing food in ice.

"It signals to the shopper, 'Hey, this is perishable. It's perishable right now,'" said Crawford. "Now's the time to pick it."

Shoppers tend to stay on the edges of the store, circling around counter-clockwise. Retailers sometimes place an eye-catching sale item near the track.

"Once I get enticed down the aisle, the chances I'll buy something go up dramatically," she said.

Shopper Sharon McCain said she was influenced to buy something she didn't intend to. She didn't come to the store to buy apples -- but still left the store with some.

"Well, they were stacked up and looked good," she said. "So I bought some apples."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Moms Sell, Trade, Swap Baby Clothes for Extra Cash

Tom Grill/Getty Images(NEW YORK) -- A new addition to the family is a joy, but there is no joy in the bills that come with outfitting an infant that can outgrow clothes before you take the tags off.

The average American home spends $700 to $1,000 on baby clothes in a baby's first year, and hundreds more on all of the baby gear, like toys and carriers, according to the Consumer Expenditure Survey. Most agree that's a big investment for items that are only used for a few months before they are outgrown.

We all know parents would love to get back a little of that cash they're shelling out, so ABC’s Lara Spencer showed parents ways they can save a little cash and help others in the process.

The most valuable items are usually clothes that are still new with tags, and name-brand baby clothes, said Gayle Raskin, co-owner of Jane's Exchange, a New York City consignment shop that specializes in children's items. Some brands that will re-sell easily are Ralph Lauren, Gap, Gymboree, and Tea. Even non-brand essentials can make money, especially if grouped together. A group of hats will sell better on eBay compared to packing them individually. Lastly, baby gear that still has its original packaging or directions can get top dollar.

How to Swap, Donate Your Gently Used Baby Clothes:  Parents who have old baby clothes can trade gently used clothes with fellow parents for other clothes. There are several websites available, including Thred Up, where moms can trade clothes that are too small for the next size up of gently used clothes. Also, there are a number of places moms can donate old baby gear, including Goodwill, Baby Buggy, Baby2Baby and Room to Grown.

How to Sell Your Gently Used Baby Clothes:  For those looking to sell, a reminder that there are some items that should never be sold, and that you should never buy stained and soiled items and recalled items.

If you are unsure about an item's safety or selling condition, it is always a good idea to do an online search before you sell any gear, especially cribs, car seats or carriers, to make sure the item you're selling is not recalled. In addition, most lactation experts advise against re-selling breast pumps. Additional great places where mom can sell their baby items are on eBay, Craigslist, or a consignment store.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Retail Sales Rose 0.5% in July

Keith Brofsky/Photodisc/Thinkstock(WASHINGTON) -- Retail sales were up 0.5 percent in July -- the biggest increase in four months, and an indication that consumers are managing to hold their own despite weak labor and housing markets. Americans spent more on cars and furniture last month, and we shelled out more to fill up our gas tanks.

Diane Swonk of Mesirow Financial calls the government’s latest economic indicator a “breath of fresh air in what's been a very stagnant environment.”

“The good news is the U.S. consumer may not be robust, but they're still alive,” Swonk said. “Of course, this data is all before the recent market turmoil we've seen, the toll to confidence created by the debt debacle in both the U.S. and Europe, and the downgrade of S&P.”

And to that point, Swonk said it’s impossible to predict how August will hold up.

“So far the early results on back to school sales are not great, but at least we know we've started this quarter with some momentum for the U.S. consumer and they're not dead yet.”

She said the news “gives us more reason to believe we'll continue to muddle along, rather than slip into a double dip recession.”

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio


Gold Rises, Stocks Fall over US Debt Impasse

Medioimages/Photodisc(NEW YORK) -- Gold and the Swiss franc appeared the only winners Monday, as Washington's ongoing impasse over the U.S. debt ceiling continued to depress markets.

At midday, stock markets in the U.S., Asia and Europe were all down -- the S&P 500 by 0.47 percent, the Nikkei by 0.81 percent. Gold, however, rose 0.81 percent, and futures for the precious metal hit a new record of $1,624.30 an ounce. The Swiss franc gained 2.1 percent against the dollar.

U.S. Treasuries showed surprising resiliency, with the yield on 10-year Treasuries rising to 2.98 percent. Some observers took that as a sign that fears of financial catastrophe had been exaggerated. Guy Lebas, a fixed income strategist at Janney Montgomery Scott in Philadelphia, told Bloomberg he'd expect to see a bigger move if something "truly catastrophic" was on the horizon.

Meantime, a gridlocked U.S. capitol entered its last full week of negotiations before the Aug. 2 deadline for raising the nation's debt ceiling. Earlier in the day, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, in Hong Kong, sought to reassure Asian nations of the U.S. economy's health, reminding them that the country has recovered from such instability in the past. Clinton predicted that a debt ceiling deal would be reached before the Aug. 2 deadline to avoid an unprecedented default.

It is feared that if an agreement is not reached, the United States could lose its triple-A credit rating.

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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