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ComScore reports 3% increase in U.S. e-commerce spending in Q4 2009

BY Allison Cerra

RESTON, Va. ComScore reported Tuesday that retail e-commerce spending during fourth quarter 2009 totaled $39 billion, while total e-commerce spending for last year was $129.8 billion.

The spending in the fourth quarter marks a 3% increase from the year-ago period.

“The fourth quarter, with 3% year-over-year growth, helped end what has been a disappointing year for online consumer spending on a more positive note,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “As we head into 2010, there is reason for guarded optimism for online retail spending to continue to gain share of consumers’ wallets. At the same time, I expect absolute growth to be stymied by continued high unemployment and the deleveraging that is occurring in the economy as consumers exercise their new-found propensity to save.”

Other highlights from fourth-quarter e-commerce included:

  • Spending growth was driven by an increase in online buyers, while average spending per buyer saw modest declines.
  • Tuesday, Dec. 15 ranked as the heaviest U.S. online spending day in history at $913 million.
  • The largest online retailers, led by Amazon and Walmart, gained market share of e-commerce sales versus small and medium-sized retailers.
  • Free shipping factored into more than 4% of e-commerce transactions during the holiday season.

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Wegmans, Costco top grocers in new survey

BY Allison Cerra

BOULDER, Colo. A new consumer survey conducted by Market Force Information found that Wegmans and Costco hold the No. 1 spot as grocery retailers in the United States.

Market Force polled 6,000 consumers last month in a survey designed to shed light on which grocers are preferred in the leading grocery categories. The survey noted that quality, not quantity, could be a shaping factor. Market Force said this conclusion was based on the fact that consumers are likely to vote for retailers most familiar to them, and drilled down into its results to determine which chain would win out when the number of store locations was taken into account. For example, while Kroger has almost 2,500 stores in North America and was voted one of the top grocers in the nation, Wegmans — which scored 3% of the total votes for favorite supermarket — only boasts 75 stores, positioning Wegmans above Kroger in the results.

“From high-quality produce to courteous staff, cleanliness to inviting atmosphere, Wegmans is a standout favorite grocer with consumers,” said Janet Eden-Harris, chief marketing officer for Market Force. “The fact that it can deliver all of these key performance attributes, and also rank highest on providing low prices, is an enormous accomplishment, and clearly earns the chain renowned customer loyalty.”

Meanwhile, when looking at such mass grocers as Walmart, Sam’s Club, Target and Costco, Market Force found similar results. While Walmart garnered the highest number of total votes, with fully 42% of the total, its store count also must be factored in. When re-indexed based on the number of stores, Costco took the lead. That lead is again substantiated based on the consumer ranking of mass grocers against the attributes they care about most. Costco scored highest on 12 of 16 attributes, and tied for first for the remaining four.

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Va.-based Ukrop’s stores change to Martin’s Food Markets banners

BY Alaric DeArment

RICHMOND, Va. This spring, a grocery chain familiar to residents of Virginia since 1937 will change faces.

Giant-Carlisle, part of Dutch supermarket operator Royal Ahold, announced Monday that it would make its planned changes this spring to the 25 Ukrop’s stores it purchased in the Richmond and Williamsburg, Va., areas, changing the stores to Martin’s Food Markets and rolling back business practices that analysts have blamed for costing Ukrop’s its top spot in the Richmond market. Ahold announced in December that it would acquire Ukrop’s for $140 million through its Giant-Carlisle division, which operates stores under the Giant and Martin’s banners in Virginia, West Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania.

Many analysts have said that Ukrop’s long-standing policy of closing on Sundays and not selling alcohol caused the family-owned chain to lose its top place in the Richmond market to Food Lion, owned by Belgium-based Delhaize Group. The rebranded Ukrop’s stores will sell beer and wine and remain open on Sundays.

Giant-Carlisle said the Ukrop family will continue to provide kitchen and bakery products to the stores. The stores include 19 pharmacies, which will continue to operate with their current pharmacists.

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