Post-Sandy retail spending boost slowed down, report shows
PURCHASE, N.Y. — A slowdown in retail spending happened after a boost that followed Hurricane Sandy, according to a new report by a division of MasterCard.
MasterCard Advisors released its SpendingPulse report, finding that a three-week recovery in retail spending after Sandy began to slow during the week that ended Dec. 8, while some sectors, like specialty apparel, slipped into negative growth.
"Given the season’s modest start, the numbers we’re seeing so far are highlighting the importance of the last two weeks of the season," MasterCard SpendingPulse global solutions leader Michael McNamara said. "After a brief recovery in growth rates after Sandy, holiday sector sales growth has again subsided."
McNamara added that last year’s Super Saturday fell on Christmas Eve, pressuring retail sales that came out to $12 billion, but sales should be more than $18 billion this year and "could rival Black Friday sales."
At the same time, this year’s Black Friday saw a 4.9% decline in retail spending, to $18.9 billion, though the four days of Thanksgiving weekend saw sales of $50.2 billion, a 2.9% increase over last year’s $48.8 billion. The last 10 days before Christmas last year saw $147 billion in retail sales, and the report found that retailers looking for a positive season this year will find the 10-day period even more important due to weather and calendar shifts.
Costco sales increase 10% in Q1
ISSAQUAH, Wash. — Growth in sales and membership income at Costco helped the company produce earnings per share of 95 cents and beat analysts’ estimates by 2 cents.
Sales for the company’s first quarter ended November 25, increased 10% to $23.2 billion from $21.2 billion and profits increased 30% to $416 million, or 95 cents a share, from $320 million, or 73 cents a share. The profit performance benefited from the inclusion of charges totaling $29 million, or 7 cents a share, in the prior year reporting period. On an adjusted basis excluding those charges from the prior year, profits increased a slightly less impressive 19.2%.
Same store sales increased 6% domestically and 7% internationally, excluding fuel sales and foreign exchange effects.
Membership trends remain solid as fee income advanced 14.3% to $511 million from $447 million the prior year.
The company ended the quarter with cash, cash equivalents and short term investments totaling $5.6 billion, nearly a 15% increase from $4.8 billion at the end of the comparable period the prior year. Costco will expend a large portion of those resources in the coming weeks as it plans to pay a special dividend of $7 a share to help investors avoid an imminent tax increase on dividends. In total, Costco will pay out roughly $3 billion before year end and plans to issue new debt to finance the move.
Costco ended the period with 621 warehouses worldwide, consisting of 448 clubs in the United States and Puerto Rico, 85 in Canada, 32 in Mexico, 23 in the United Kingdom, 13 in Japan, nine in Taiwan, eight in Korea, and three in Australia.
Suspended insurance coverage drives OTC utilization
Insurance coverage is a significant factor that is driving increased OTC utilization — 67% of respondents switched to an OTC once insurance coverage was suspended for a prescription formulation. According to an online survey of more than 900 AccentHealth viewers conducted in September, one-third of consumers reported insurance stopped covering a prescription once an OTC equivalent was available.
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