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Future sales looks picture-perfect for digital picture frames

BY Doug Desjardins

They’re never going to be as ubiquitous as iPods or cell phones, but digital photo frames are generating huge sales that are going to increase over the next four years. According to research firm IDC, digital frames are projected to pass the 42 million mark in sales by 2011. The study, titled “Digital Frames 2007-2011: Re-igniting Soft Display Imaging Solutions,” studied the market in the United States and around the world.

The findings noted the best-selling frames were in the 5-inch to 7-inch range in 2006, but now are in the 7-inch to 9-inch range that is expected to be the size of choice from now until 2011. The price of digital frames has been decreasing the past year and is projected to drop 16.5 percent over the next four years.

“As the desire to view digital images on soft displays rather than hard copies grows, digital frames will realize significant shipment increases in all regions around the world,” said IDC program director of Digital Imaging Solutions Ron Glaz, adding that frame suppliers will need to find new applications for the technology so that it will “seamlessly fit into the evolving digital home content ecosystem.”

Some suppliers are already using digital photo frame technology in other product areas. Some digital clocks are being equipped with 1.8-inch LCD screens that can switch from a clock façade to a digital frame slide show with the touch of a button. Others are offering digital frames with such added features as the ability to play MP3s with built-in speakers and to play video.

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Fred’s reports both monthly and quarterly record sales

BY Allison Cerra

MEMPHIS, Tenn. Fred’s Inc. reported record sales for the five-week and eight-month periods which ended Oct. 6, 2007.

The company said Friday that its total sales for the month increased 2 percent to $161.4 million compared to the same period last year. Total sales for the year-to-date period increased 5 percent to $1.157 billion.

Same store sales for the month rose 1 percent on top of a 5 percent increase in September last year. On a comparable store basis, sales increased 1.3 percent through the first eight months of fiscal 2007 compared with a 2.7 percent gain in the year-earlier period. Same-store sales are a key predictor of how well the company performs in stores that have been open for several years, and how well the newly open stores will do in the future.

“September sales came in at the low end of our forecasted range of a 1 percent to 3 percent increase, affected by unusually warm weather across our markets and the disruption caused by the updating of 98 stores under our refresher program,” said Fred’s Stores chief executive officer Michael J. Hayes. “We look forward to finishing our refresher program in October with the last 60 stores and to a better economic environment for our customers going forward, as the benefits of the minimum wage increase and the focus of Federal Reserve Board on the credit crunch take hold.”

Fred’s opened four stores at the end of September, bringing total store openings to 22 for the year-to-date period. These new store openings have been balanced by the company’s decision to close underperforming stores. In the remaining months, Fred’s Stores said that it plans to open 14 additional stores, with no further planned closings, which will result in a net increase in stores of 2 percent for the year.

Fred’s Inc. operates 702 discount general merchandise stores, including 24 franchised stores in the southeastern United States.

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Target to open another 61 stores nationwide

BY Allison Cerra

MINNEAPOLIS Target announced that it will be opening an additional 61 Target stores, the company said Friday.

The stores, which will all open Oct. 14, will open in 22 different states. The majority of the stores are making their debut in Arizona, California, Ohio and Texas.

In addition to offering the latest in trend-right merchandise, Target also brings a 44-year tradition of community involvement. The retail chain commits itself to local communities donating more than $3 million each week to area nonprofit organizations, becoming involved in local volunteerism efforts through Target Volunteers, and orchestrating other special projects that help meet area social service, arts and education needs.

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