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Costco sales, profits increase in Q1

BY Alaric DeArment

ISSAQUAH, Wash. — Costco Wholesale Corp. reported sales of $21.18 billion and profits of $320 million during first quarter 2012, according to an earnings statement.

Those figures, for the 12-week period ended Nov. 20, compared with sales of $18.82 billion and profits of $312 million during the same period last year. The company also recorded a $17 million charge for the donations it made to the campaign in its home state of Washington to privatize liquor sales. The company contributed $22.5 million of the $22.7 million total that went to the campaign for the measure, Initiative 1183, of which $19 million was actually spent, according to published reports.

The warehouse retailer operates 596 stores, including 433 in the United States, and an online portal, Costco Online.

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Rite Aid introduces new online coupon management tool, wellness rewards for Wellness+ members

BY Alaric DeArment

CAMP HILL, Pa. — Calling it a first for the drug store industry, Rite Aid will roll out an online coupon management tool for members of its Wellness+ loyalty card program, the retail pharmacy chain said Tuesday.

Starting Jan. 1, all members will have access to the tool, called Load2Card, allowing them to load an average of more than $100 in savings directly to their Wellness+ cards. In addition, members who accumulate 500 points to become silver members will have access to a "wellness reward" of their choice, including a health screening, a subscription to a health or fitness magazine, or a gym membership.

"Wellness+ has been a game changer for Rite Aid," COO Ken Martindale said. "As we grow the program, it’s important that we continue to enhance its value to members. Through innovative tools and exciting, new wellness rewards, we’ll deliver more value than ever before to Wellness+ members — our most loyal customers — in the new year."

The company also created a new bronze tier for members who accumulate 250 points in a single year. Anyone who has reached the silver or 1,000-point gold tier by the end of 2011 will retain that status through 2012.

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Holiday survey: More than 40% of consumers will shop last-minute for gifts

BY DSN STAFF

LOS ANGELES — Survey data from PriceGrabber, an Experian company, found that many consumers will continue to hit the stores through the final days leading up to Christmas.

Results from PriceGrabber’s fourth winter holiday shopping survey found that 41% of consumers plan to shop between Dec. 21 and Dec. 24 for holiday gifts.

When those last-minute shoppers were asked to select all of the reasons why, 43% said that they believed the best discounts can be found during this time period. Another 43% indicated that they are busy and unable to finish their shopping earlier, 26% admitted to procrastinating, 22% believed it is fun to do last-minute shopping, and 10% are waiting for a year-end work bonus to begin shopping.

"After observing the increase in activity and sales of the Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping season this year, we expect to see a significant percentage of consumers seeking to prompt retailers to offer additional savings throughout December," said Graham Jones, general manager of PriceGrabber. "Savvy shoppers saw retailers rolling out discounts as early as the week before Thanksgiving this year, and they are staying on top of last-minute incentives that are certainly on the horizon in the coming weeks."

When asked what type of gifts they plan to purchase at the last minute, 53% said they intend to purchase both big- and small-ticket items, 31% will buy only small-ticket items (under $100); 10% will purchase all of the holidays gifts on their list, and 6% will buy only big-ticket items (over $100).

While most consumers plan to complete their holiday shopping before Dec. 25, PriceGrabber’s survey found that 9% will wait until January to purchase holiday gifts. Men and women differed in their plans, with 11% of men saying they will wait until January to buy gifts and only 8% of women planning to do so.

When those consumers who will delay their holiday shopping until January were asked to select all of the reasons why, 68% said that they believe sale prices are best in January, 27% plan to use gift money received during the holiday period, 24% simply prefer shopping in January, and 11% plan to wait for a year-end work bonus to make purchases.

According to PriceGrabber’s survey, a notable percentage of shoppers are turning to daily deal sites for great last-minute prices, with 27% indicating that they plan to shop for last-minute gifts on such sites as Groupon and LivingSocial.

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