Yes, the conference is past, and so it is time to throw some news chum in the waters. Of course, times being what they are, this chum is economic. Will it sink or swim? Only you can tell.
- From the “Iris Lucerne” Department: Back in the 1970s, during the last economic crisis, the Ralphs grocery chain introduced “Plain Wrap”. Well, guess what? Store-brands are hot again. Dollar sales of store brands increased 10% during the 52 weeks before Nov. 1, compared with a 3% gain for branded products, according to the Nielsen market research company. Store brands now account for nearly 22% of products sold at the grocery, up from 20% a year ago, Nielsen found. At Kroger (now the parent of Ralphs), store brands account for 26% of grocery sales. I can certainly attest to buying store brands, especially from Trader Joes and Fresh and Easy, who are primarily store-brand products.
- From the “Would You Like an Ad on the Side?” Department: Another article in the NY Times talks about the difficulty social networking sites such as Facebook are having with advertising. It seems that most folks ignore the text or banner ads, and only pay attention to specially crafted sites. I don’t know how this has affected LJ advertising, but it could explain some of the sponsored communities that have been showing up.
- From the “Smokum Peace Pipe. Tobacco. Rot Lungs.” Department: The chief of the Unkechaug Nation in New York has vowed to keep selling cigarettes, even in the face of a lawsuit from the City of New York that claims that nation — the closest reservation to New York City — has become a “tax evasion haven” and a drain on the city’s coffers. New York City officials say millions of cartons of untaxed cigarettes are sold every year by Poospatuck retailers to bootleggers who smuggle them into the city to resell for about $5 a pack, not the $8 or $9 charged by New York retailers who pay the state and city taxes of $4.25 a pack. Where’s Stan Freberg when we need him?
- From the “I Get A Charge Out Of This” Department: The Federal Reserve on Thursday will vote on sweeping reform of the credit card industry that would ban practices such as retroactively increasing interest rates at will and charging late fees when consumers are not given a reasonable amount of time to make payments. Among the many provisions is a ban on raising interest rates on existing balances unless the customer was 30 days or more late in paying the minimum. Other circumstances in which a rate change would be allowed would be if the card had a variable rate or a promotional rate that was set to expire. Banks would also not be able to treat a payment as late if the customer had not been given a fair amount of time to make that payment. The proposal would also dictate how credit card companies should apply customers’ payments that exceed the minimum required each month. When different annual percentage rates apply to different balances on the same card, banks would be prohibited from applying the entire amount to the balance with the lowest rate. Many card issuers do that so that debts with the highest interest rates linger the longest, thereby costing the consumer more.
- From the “This Mall Is Going To The Dogs” Department: More and more stores, according to the LA Times, are allowing dogs in the store. Every store is different, and the rules often vary depend on the size of the dog, but the bottom line is: they would probably rather clean up after an accident than lose a sale, especially these days.