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NRF predicts 4% holiday sales increase this season

BY Dan Berthiaume

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The National Retail Federation expects sales in the months of November and December to increase 3.9% to $602.1 billion, up slightly from last year’s actual 3.5% holiday season sales growth. The forecast is higher than the 10-year average holiday sales growth of 3.3%.

“Our forecast is a realistic look at where we are right now in this economy, balancing continued uncertainty in Washington and an economy that has been teetering on incremental growth for years,” said NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay. “Overall, retailers are optimistic for the 2013 holiday season, hoping political debates over government spending and the debt ceiling do not erase any economic progress we’ve already made.”

The NRF said that economic variables including positive growth in the U.S. housing market and increased consumer appetite to buy larger-ticket items give retailers reason to be cautiously optimistic for solid holiday season gains. However, much remains up in the air, including fiscal concerns around the debt ceiling and government funding, and income growth, as well as policies and actions surrounding foreign affairs, all of which could impact holiday sales. According to NRF, the holiday season can account for anywhere from 20% to 40% of a retailer’s annual sales, and accounts for approximately 20% of total industry annual sales.

In addition, NRF expects retailers to hire between 720,000 and 780,000 seasonal workers this holiday season, in line with the actual 720,500 they hired in 2012, which was a 13% year-over-year increase from 2011.

“Retailers will add hundreds of thousands of valuable jobs to the economy this holiday season, including extra staff for their distribution centers, store managers, e-commerce and mobile positions and helpful staff associates,” said Shay. “Teenagers, college students and adults love working in retail during the holidays, especially with the perks of employee discounts and being the first to see what’s added to store shelves. Additionally, as we’ve heard from several companies, these holiday positions offer thousands of people the opportunity to turn seasonal employment into a long-term dynamic and thriving career opportunity.”

 

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Rite Aid comps increase 1.9% in September

BY Alaric DeArment

CAMP HILL, Pa. — Rite Aid’s same-store sales increased last month despite being offset by slightly lower front-end same-store sales and new generic drug introductions, the retail pharmacy chain said Thursday.

During the four-week period that ended Saturday, same-store sales increased 1.9% compared with September 2012. The increase included a 0.5% decrease in front-end comps and a 3.1% increase in pharmacy comps, offset by 1% due to new generics. Same-store prescription count increased by 0.9%.

Total sales for the month were $1.935 billion, compared with $1.899 billion last September.

For the year to date, comps decreased by 0.4%, including flat front-end comps and a 0.6% decrease in the pharmacy. Same-store prescription count increased by 0.1%. Total sales for the 30-week period were $14.449 billion, a 0.7% decrease from $14.545 billion during the same period last year.

 

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Walgreens, GoHealth partner on health insurance marketplace resource

BY Michael Johnsen

DEERFIELD, Ill. — With an ongoing need for consumer education and awareness to help people understand their health insurance options under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, Walgreens and Chicago-based GoHealth on Thursday announced a nationwide initiative and collaboration to assist customers and help provide a resource for those considering the new health insurance marketplaces.   

Walgreens store personnel are directing individual customers who inquire to the GoHealth Marketplace, a resource where they can shop and compare health insurance plans, enroll and find other important tools and information. Consumers can access the GoHealth Marketplace online from www.walgreens.com/healthcarereform or via phone at (855) 487-6969.  

Walgreens also is providing informational brochures and other materials in stores.

“As an accessible, community healthcare provider serving more than 6 million people each day, Walgreens can help connect those customers who may be considering new health insurance options with resources and information,” said Brad Fluegel, Walgreens SVP and chief strategy officer. “Our goal is to help ensure people fully understand the marketplace, and working with GoHealth to provide personalized consultation from experts who can help them make informed decisions.”

Customers receive one-on-one support from licensed GoHealth advisors who can help guide them through the selection and enrollment process (over the phone or online). The GoHealth Marketplace offers all plans available on the federal and state marketplaces and can assist individuals regardless of income level or subsidy eligibility. 

“A partnership with Walgreens gives us an opportunity to reach a population that needs our help,” noted Clint Jones, CEO of GoHealth. “Educating and enabling consumers to enroll is core to our mission of helping individuals and families obtain the right health insurance coverage for their unique needs.”

According to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey, 51% of Americans say they don’t understand how the Affordable Care Act will affect them or their family. Public confusion is especially prominent among the uninsured, as 62% say they don’t have enough information about the health law.

“We know people will have a lot of questions and many may feel overwhelmed,” Fluegel said. “This collaboration furthers our ongoing efforts to help those who may be entering the marketplace to be better prepared and make informed choices. GoHealth is an ideal partner for this program, and together we look forward to creating a seamless experience that simplifies the process and provides the information and support people need to get, stay and live well.” 

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