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Stephanie Clifford
The New York Times|nytimes.com

On a recent shopping trip to Costco, Lilly Neubauer picked up paper towels, lentils, carrots — and a home mortgage.

While Ms. Neubauer, 27, said she was surprised to find the warehouse club selling financial products, she and her husband saved about $200 a month by refinancing there this year. She also bought home insurance from Costco, she said, again because it was cheaper there.

“It opened us up to the fact that Costco is more than toilet paper,” said Ms. Neubauer, who lives in Dallas.

As the nation’s largest banks stay stingy with credit and a growing portion of the population has no bank at all, major retailers are stepping into the void. Customers can now withdraw cash at an A.T.M. with a prepaid card from Walmart, take out a loan at Home Depot for a kitchen renovation or kick-start a new venture with a small-business loan from Sam’s Club. This year, Walmart even started to test selling a life insurance policy. read more »

 

Julie Medeiros thinks her taste in fashion is worth something. Turns out it is: about $50 a month.

Medeiros is not a style pro; her day job is at a talent agency in Manhattan. But in a little-known practice, social-media shopping sites are offering payments to shoppers who post product links that drive Web traffic and sales to retailers. In the case of Medeiros, it is the sneakers and lipstick she added to Pinterest and the night-life collection she posted on the shopping site Beso.

Favorable mentions on blogs have been for sale for years. Product reviews can also be bought. Now social-media sites are taking citizen marketing to a new extreme, turning anyone’s Twitter message, Facebook post, Pinterest image or email into a possible paid promotion. read more »

 
Technology

Harold Pollack used to spend $1,000 a year on Amazon, but this fall started buying from small online retailers instead. The prices are higher, but Dr. Pollack says he now has a clear conscience.

“I don’t feel they behave in a way that I want to support with my consumer dollars,” Dr. Pollack, a professor in Chicago, said of the big Internet retailers.

Giant e-commerce companies like Amazon are acting increasingly like their big-box brethren as they extinguish small competitors with discounted prices, free shipping and easy-to-use apps. read more »

 

The second half of the year is off to a slow start for retailers, who reported that sales at stores open at least a year were weaker than expected in July, increasing 2.9 percent from July of last year, according to a tally by Thomson Reuters.

Discount stores and department stores posted some of the best results, with discounters’ sales increasing 3.9 percent, and those for department stores up 3.6 percent. But almost two-thirds of all stores reporting sales data missed analysts’ estimates, with retailers catering to teenagers faring particularly badly, increasing 1.5 percent. read more »

 
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