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Stater Bros., Stater Bros. Charities donate $26,000 to Toys for Tots

BY Allison Cerra

SAN BERNARDINO, Calif. — A regional supermarket chain and its charitable arm once again has donated funds to the United States Marine Corps Reserve’s Toys for Tots program.

Stater Bros., along with Stater Bros. Charities, earlier this month presented a $26,000 check to the program, which will be used to purchase toys that will be distributed to community-based organizations in San Bernardino and Riverside Counties.

"The Stater Bros. ‘family’ believes in giving back to the communities we serve," Stater Bros. chairman and CEO Jack Brown said. "We are very proud to help make the holiday wishes of so many children come true this year."

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CouponNetwork.com introduces Video Rewards

BY Allison Cerra

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — A Catalina Marketing online platform that provides digital and printable coupons is slated to launch a new consumer savings solution.

CouponNetwork.com soon will launch Video Rewards, which is designed to increase brand engagement, customer interaction and coupon redemption rates by allowing companies to better engage and connect with customers through relevant, informational videos, CouponNetwork.com said. By viewing videos from the brands, which are housed on the CouponNetwork site, users automatically receive a higher value on the brand’s digital or printable coupon offer.

“Video Rewards demonstrates the potential of online couponing to deliver significantly more consumer and brand engagement versus more traditional mass or paper couponing vehicles," said Susan Gear, general manager of Coupon Network. "Our goal is to help consumers build deeper relationships with their favorite brands, as well as discover new products and brands. On Coupon Network, consumers connect not only with our unique offers and savings, but with the essence of the brand through rich, interactive content. Coupon Network continues to be the place to go for consumers to save money on their favorite brands."

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Visa survey: 77% of Americans haven’t finished shopping

BY Marianne Wilson

SAN FRANCISCO — A new survey conducted by Visa revealed that 77% of consumers still need to buy holiday gifts this week. These last-minute shoppers will spend an average of $278 in the final days leading up to Christmas and Hanukkah.

Procrastination is running rampant this year, with 13% of consumers planning to purchase all of their gifts in this final week. The survey data also showed that 8% of shoppers will purchase three quarters of their gifts this week, while 16% will purchase half of the gifts on their list this week. And 51% of consumers said they will be purchasing a quarter of their gifts this week.

"With this many Americans still desperate to buy gifts, we are officially in the red zone for ‘panic shopping’," said Jason Alderman, Visa’s senior director of global financial education. "When shoppers panic, they throw money at the problem and often overspend to get a gift — any gift — in time for the holidays."

With six days until Christmas, the U.S. holiday shopping season is better than expected, with discounts deep enough to bring in shoppers who are searching for bargains but not showing the desperation seen in the recession.

Customer Growth Partners, which has been one of the most bullish forecasters of sales heading into the holiday season, estimated that U.S. retailer sales on Saturday were $26 billion, just shy of the $27 billion spent on "Black Friday," the day after Thanksgiving, which traditionally kicks off the holiday shopping season.

ShopperTrak, which monitors traffic at shopping malls, now expects sales in November and December to rise 3.7 percent, up from its September forecast of 3%.

Last week, the National Retail Federation raised its forecast, calling for holiday sales to rise 3.8%. In October, it forecast a gain of 2.8%.

To be sure, that NRF forecast is still less than the 5.2% increase reported for 2010. Unemployment was still 8.6% in November and lower-income shoppers have been making use of such plans as layaway to paying for holiday items.

So many analysts said sales are not exceptionally strong or exceptionally weak.

"There’s more that’s normal here than people want to let on," Edward Jones analyst Matt Arnold said.

ShopperTrak cofounder Bill Martin said that discounts were more in the 30% to 40% range, instead of the 50% to 60% seen last year.

On Saturday, he said it was hard to find parking spaces at the malls he visited and he saw lots of people with packages. In other words, it was a typical weekend before Christmas.

"It’s been a typical shopping pattern," he said.

Overall, traffic to stores may be off a couple of percentage points. But that’s because more people are shopping on line, he said.

IBM Benchmark, which tracks transactions on the websites of hundreds of the top retailers, said on Monday it now expects online sales to rise 9.5% to 10% in December from a year ago.

Trutina Financial chief investment officer Patty Edwards said what she saw at Target this weekend was stocked shelves and normal discounts.

"There weren’t any specific markdowns that were overly compelling, but conversely, there didn’t seem to be any shortages of items at all," Edwards said.

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