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Pay Dirt
A daily look at what we buy, how we spend, and the companies that do right - and wrong - by their customers.

retail - All posts tagged retail

  • Nov 14, 2011
    5:04 PM ET

    How Early Can They Go? Shoppers Shift Black Friday Strategies


    Last week, big retailers including Target, Best Buy and Macy’s made 4 a.m. Black Friday shopping passé with midnight openings. This week, they’re the latecomers.

    Toys R Us announced Monday that it would open its stores for Black Friday at 9 p.m. on Thanksgiving Day. That’s an hour earlier that the toy chain opened its doors last year. It’s also an hour before next-earliest competitor Wal-Mart plans to open at 10 p.m. Toys R Us also plans to offer coupon booklets to the first 100 shoppers in line, as well as a second round of door-buster deals at 5 a.m. for late shoppers.

  • Aug 19, 2011
    5:21 PM ET

    Why You Conspicuously Avoid the Cheaper Wine


    Any diner on a budget has probably faced the wine list with the following strategy: Not the cheapest bottle, maybe not even the second-cheapest, but something a little better would do nicely.

    New research suggests that’s not simply frugality at work. When faced with several items in a high-end category, consumers avoid picking the cheaper options, according to “The Discriminating Consumer: Product Proliferation and Willingness to Pay for Quality,” a study in the Forthcoming Journal of Marketing Research. In one experiment where participants were asked to choose one of nine different Sauvignon Blancs, only 25% chose one of the three cheapest bottles. The rest picked a more expensive wine.

  • Jul 11, 2011
    11:47 AM ET

    The Best Cities for Online Shopping


    If you want a prime mall parking space, head to Miami. Residents there prefer to do their shopping online.

    People in Miami make five times as many online purchases as the national average and spend 5.7 times as much, reports a new analysis of spending data at the 30 biggest online retailers for consumers in the 65 biggest U.S. cities. Manhattanites, the runners-up, buy 3.7 times as much, and spend 3.5 times more. (See the top and bottom five below.)

    City residents who prefer the convenience of home delivery to lugging groceries or furniture up a five-floor walk-up may have a head start, but online shoppers as a whole are buying more, thanks to better prices and a growing selection of available items, says Sucharita Mulpuru, a principal analyst with Forrester Research. Online sales rose 12.6% last year to $176.2 billion, according to the firm’s annual forecast, and 70% of that was existing shoppers buying more. (The 5.5 million Americans who shopped online for the first time last year accounted for the rest.) found that 30.4% of purchases were medications, health and beauty products; 11.1% clothing, 9.4% computer hardware and 1.6% food, beer and wine, among other categories.

  • Jul 1, 2011
    12:00 PM ET

    Talking Shop: The Spoiled American Shoplifter

    The Penguin Press

    Like plenty of other Americans, Rachel Shteir watched with curiosity the 2001 Saks Fifth Avenue surveillance footage of Winona Ryder lifting $5,500 worth of socks, hairbands and clothing “I became fascinated with the idea of someone who didn’t need to shoplift, shoplifting,” she says. Her new book, “The Steal,” tackles the question of why people take five-finger discounts and what stores’ $11.6 billion in annual shoplifting losses means to law-abiding shoppers.

    Pay Dirt: Who is the typical shoplifter these days?

    Shteir: That’s the interesting thing — there is no profile. There’s no particular type of person we can look at and say, that person shoplifts.

    Pay Dirt: We’ve heard a lot about the celebrity shoplifter, a la Winona Ryder or Lindsay Lohan. Where do they fall in?

    Shteir: Celebrities are like us, so they shoplift when they get anxious, or when they feel like they deserve something they don’t have. The reasons aren’t that different from your average middle-class shoplifter.

  • Jun 29, 2011
    10:58 AM ET

    Danger Ahead: Shopping With the Stars

    Getty Images

    Earlier this week, Alicia Silverstone begged me to try her favorite vegan chocolate coconut bars. Kim Kardashian wants to help me pick out new shoes, and I have plans with Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen to go T-shirt shopping later this month.

    It’s not the glamorous life of a reporter that’s keeping my inbox full, but rather, the growing trend of celebrity-curated shopping deals. Any consumer who wants similar celebrity attention need only hand over her email address — but although doing so may keep you on trend, it can also be hazardous for your bank account.

    These sites started grabbing attention this spring and the field is only getting more crowded. StyleMint, which launches Friday with a collection of T-shirts designed by the Olsen twins, is the latest of more than half a dozen sites to let members choose an item monthly from rotating “boutiques” of clothing, shoes or accessories picked out by a celebrity stylist. (Among the other site-celebrity pairing, Kate Bosworth works with JewelMint, Kim Kardashian with ShoeDazzle and Christian Siriano with Send the Trend.) Boutiques are personalized to you based on your answers to an introductory style quiz. Another recent entrant to the celebrity-shopping trend, OpenSky, is trying a different model. Members get discounts on products recommended by its celebrity curators, who include Kristin Cavallari, Bobby Flay and Alicia Silverstone. You’ll receive deals only for the handful of celebrities you elect to follow.

  • Jun 9, 2011
    1:33 PM ET

    How Criminals Are Ruining Your Shopping Experience


    If on your next shopping trip the store happens to be out of electric toothbrush heads, the ink jet printer cartridges cost a little more, or there’s a security guy at the exit checking your receipt against the clothing in your shopping bag, don’t chalk it up to bad luck. Such experiences are becoming more common as retail theft increases.

    A new survey from the National Retail Federation found that 95% of retailers say they have a problem with organized retail theft, perpetrated by groups that repeatedly steal big quantities from multiple stores or warehouses with intent to make money by reselling those goods. (Rogue, lipstick-lifting housewives need not apply.) And while it’s always been a problem (90% said it was last year), it seems to be escalating, with more than half of retailers saying they’ve seen more incidents over the last year than in previous years. Figures are hard to calculate, but the NRF estimates retailers lost as much as $30 billion last year.

    At first glance, stores are the big losers, but organized theft has a big impact on consumers, too.

About Pay Dirt

  • Pay Dirt examines the millions of consumer decisions Americans make every day: What to buy, how much to pay, whether to rave or complain. Lead written by Quentin Fottrell, the blog examines these interactions, providing readers with news, insight and tips on shopping, spending, customer service, and companies that do right – and wrong – by their customers. Send items, questions and comments to or tweet @SMPayDirt.