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Anne D'Innocenzio
Associated Press|ap.org

NEW YORK — You can recycle your waste, grow your own food and drive a fuel-efficient car. But being socially responsible isn’t so easy when it comes to the clothes on your back.

Last week’s building collapse in Bangladesh that killed hundreds of clothing factory workers put a spotlight on the sobering fact that people in poor countries often risk their lives to make the cheap T-shirts and underwear that Westerners covet.

The disaster, which comes after a fire in another Bangladesh factory killed 112 people in November, also highlights something just as troubling for socially conscious shoppers: It’s nearly impossible to make sure the clothes you buy come from factories with safe conditions. read more »

 

NEW YORK — As the fortunes of many Americans go, so goes Wal-Mart, so goes the economy.

Even as the world’s largest retailer reported an 8.6 percent rise in fourth quarter profit during the busy holiday shopping season, it offered a weaker forecast for the coming months. The problem? The poor and middle-class Americans Wal-Mart caters to — and who are big drivers of spending in the U.S. - are struggling with rising gas prices, delayed income tax refunds and higher payroll taxes.

Melanie M. Burkhardt, a mother of two teenagers who shops at Wal-Mart, is one of those people. Burkhardt, a Waycross, Ga., resident, said she’s been hit with a double whammy: the payroll tax hike, which has cut her household monthly income by $260, and higher gas prices. read more »

 

Labor groups say they will end their picketing at Wal-Mart stores for at least 60 days as part of a settlement with the National Labor Relations Board. But they vowed they will continue to press the world’s largest retailer to improve overall working conditions, including wages.

The agreement, announced by the labor board Jan. 31, comes after the discounter filed a complaint on Nov. 20 with the board against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. It said that demonstrations at the stores organized by union-backed OUR Walmart that culminated on the day after Thanksgiving threatened to disrupt its business and intimidate customers and other store workers.

OUR Walmart is made up of former and current Wal-Mart workers. read more »

 

NEW YORK — When it comes to fat holiday discounts, better late than never.

This holiday shopping season, many stores haven’t been offering the same blockbuster deals as they did last year. Instead, they’ve dangled offers of free shipping and no-fee layaways to lure shoppers.

But during the final weekend before Christmas, shoppers should expect to see more “70 percent off” and “buy one, get one free” signs as stores try to salvage a season that so far has been disappointing.

Teen retailer Aeropostale has slashed prices on everything in its stores by 60 percent. Rival teen chain American Eagle Outfitters is offering 40 percent off all purchases. Saks Fifth Avenue is cutting prices on some designer clothing up to 60 percent. And Children’s Place, a children’s clothing chain, is offering up to 75 percent off on its website. read more »

 

NEW YORK — Federal labor officials said Tuesday they don’t expect to decide before Thursday on whether to seek an injunction on behalf of Wal-Mart Stores Inc. to stop a union-backed group from encouraging worker walk-outs that are expected to culminate Friday. That’s the traditional start of the holiday shopping season.

The world’s largest retailer, based in Bentonville, Ark., filed an unfair labor practice charge last week with the National Labor Relations Board against the United Food and Commercial Workers International Union. It said the demonstrations organized by union-backed OUR Walmart threaten to disrupt its business and intimidate customers and other store workers. read more »

 

NEW YORK — Wal-Mart is testing a same-day delivery service in select markets for customers who buy popular items online during the holiday shopping season.

The move comes as the world’s largest retailer faces increasing competition from online giants like Amazon.com., which is testing same-day delivery service in 10 markets. The Bentonville, Ark.-based discounter is trying to cater to web-savvy shoppers who are demanding more convenience.

Wal-Mart’s tests started this month in northern Virginia and Philadelphia, and will be rolled out to Minneapolis this week. Wal-Mart plans to test the service in San Francisco and San Jose, Calif., later this month or in early November. read more »

 

NEW YORK — Joelle Daddino is making it difficult for stores to make money.

Like many Americans who’ve grown accustomed to deep discounts, Daddino has become so obsessed with sales that she refuses to shop any place that isn’t having one.

“If I don’t have a coupon or it’s not on sale, I just won’t buy it,” says the Yaphank, N.Y., resident.

During the recession, retailers had more sales to lure cash-strapped Americans into stores. Now, that strategy has backfired. It has bred a group of deal junkies that won’t shop unless they see “70 percent” signs or yellow clearance stickers. They’re a thorn in the side of most retailers because the discounts it takes to get them into stores eats away at profits. In fact, retailers’ annual profit growth was cut in half between 2006 and last year, according to a survey of 122 merchants by Retail Metrics, a research firm. read more »

 

NEW YORK — This summer, Americans were walking contradictions: They opened their wallets despite escalating fears about the slow economic recovery and surging gas prices.

A group of 18 retailers ranging from discounter Target to department-store chain Macy’s reported August sales on Thursday that rose 6 percent — the industry’s best performance since March — according to trade group International Council of Shopping Centers. At the same time, the government released numbers showing that Americans spent in July at the fastest clip in five months.

The news appears to show that what Americans say and do are two different things: The reports come two days after a private research firm said consumer confidence in August fell to its lowest level since November 2011 as Americans grew more concerned about the job market, business conditions and the overall economy. read more »

 

NEW YORK — After seeing high customer demand for layaway during last year’s winter holiday season, Wal-Mart is expanding the interest-free pay-over-time program for Christmas.

The new program will last a month longer than last year’s and will include more items than the toys and electronics featured last year.

The world’s largest retailer says its mostly lower-income shoppers are still having a hard time stretching their dollars to the next paycheck. A little more than three years into the economic recovery, shoppers, particularly in the low-income bracket, remain particularly hard hit by unemployment and other financial worries. read more »

 
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