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Hay Group: Retailers project boost in holiday sales, hiring seasonal workers

BY Allison Cerra

PHILADELPHIA — Retailers are boosting their holiday sales projections and hiring plans, a sign that companies have more confidence in the economy, according to a new survey.

Consulting firm Hay Group found that among 14 major U.S. retailers surveyed, 75% forecast an increase in holiday sales this year. And while 57% plan to hire seasonal workers, 36% said they plan to hire more, a shift from 2011 when just 10% planned to hire more seasonal workers than the year prior.

"Retailers are betting that 2012 is going to be a great holiday season," said Craig Rowley, VP and global practice Leader for Hay Group’s retail practice. "After four years of economic turbulence, they have figured out how to operate in an uncertain business environment and are calm and cool, knowing that they are ready, as they head into the holidays."

Hay Group also found that promotional and inventory strategies are fine-tuned this holiday season. For instance, the survey found that 31% reported that they will start promotions even earlier this year; 58% of retailers said they will wait until November to begin their promotion blitz, while 42% will start in October. Additionally, few retailers (18%) feel pressure to match online-only prices and 50% of retailers said they are looking to cut back on discounting overall this year. Interestingly, only 8% will staff stores to be open 24 hours on select dates throughout the holidays.

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Water brand debuts new packaging

BY Allison Cerra

OLFUS, Iceland — Icelandic Glacial has undergone a makeover.

The premium natural spring water brand has debuted a rebranded logo, bottle and outer box packaging. The company said the redesign — created by communications agency Team One, a division of Saatchi & Saatchi — embraces the brand’s native country of Iceland.

"After months of creative thought and development, Icelandic Glacial is proud to introduce the world to our new identity," Icelandic Glacial chairman and co-founder Jon Olafsson said. "Our distinguished partners at Team One captured the essence of Iceland and we’re confident it will be embraced by consumers around the globe."

New packaging for Icelandic Glacial will start rolling out in mid-September.

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Patients who stop taking insomnia drug continue having sleeping problems, Merck study finds

BY Alaric DeArment

WHITEHOUSE STATION, N.J. — A study of an experimental drug for insomnia indicated that patients who stop taking it continue having sleeping problems, according to results of a clinical trial announced Monday.

Merck released data from a phase-3 trial of suvorexant in which patients who had been taking the drug daily for a year were switched to placebo for a two-month "discontinuation phase." Patients who were switched from the drug to placebo showed sleeping difficulties similar to those who had consistently taken placebo.

"The methods used in this study allowed us to understand what happens when patients who had been taking suvorexant every night for a year were immediately switched to placebo, because what happens when patients stop taking a sleep medication is a key concern for both patients and healthcare professionals," St. Luke’s Hospital Sleep Medicine and Research Center executive director and senior scientist James Walsh said. "We found that the patients who had been taking suvorexant for 12 months and were switched to placebo saw their insomnia return, but clinically meaningful withdrawal symptoms and rebound insomnia did not emerge."


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