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Retailers Competing For Stimulus Checks

5/05/2008 02:00:00 AM Eastern

President Bush's economic stimulus package is intended to encourage consumer spending, and retailers appear more than happy to help.

Several national chains, including RadioShack, Sears and Wal-Mart, have developed programs that encourage consumers to not only spend their federal stimulus checks, which begin mailing this month, but to spend them at their stores.

RadioShack, for one, is offering customers a 10 percent discount on purchases of $50 to $2,500 when a stimulus check or IRS tax refund is used as a form of payment. Any remaining unspent balance will be placed on a prepaid MasterCard that can be used wherever the credit card is accepted, and no check-redemption or card-activation fees will be charged.

"While we would certainly love for them to spend everything at RadioShack, we understand other obligations may be necessary," said Peter Whitsett, RadioShack's merchandising executive VP. "Fortunately, our offer gives them the best of both worlds: Save upfront on their consumer electronics purchase, and save the rest of the money for a later date. This is the kind of personalized solution that keeps our customers' best interests at heart."

RadioShack's redemption offer runs from May 4 through July 12.

Sears Holdings, which operates Sears and Kmart stores, is less willing to share the stimulus package's proceeds. Its own redemption program, which runs from May 14 through July 19, provides a 10 percent bonus to customers who convert the entire amount of their stimulus checks into company gift cards. The bonus comes in the guise of a second gift card, valued at 10 percent of the check amount. Both gift cards can be redeemed for any product at any Sears, Kmart or Lands' End retail stores or online at www.sears.com or www.landsend.com.

"In this tough economy, we know that our customers are focused on how to make their money work harder for them," said W. Bruce Johnson, Sears Holdings' interim president/CEO. "Every day we at Sears, Kmart and Lands' End are intent on bringing our customers the value, quality and style they deserve — and our stimulus check program now provides even more value."

In contrast, there are no strings attached to Wal-Mart's offer: The retailer is simply allowing taxpayers to cash their stimulus checks at Wal-Mart stores for free, and is rolling back prices on a wide range of consumables to encourage them to stay and shop.

"We are looking at this through the eyes of our customers," said John Fleming, executive VP and chief merchandising officer for Wal-Mart Stores, U.S. "We know it's tough right now for Americans and we are here to help. That's why we'll focus on providing real, long-term value on the items that matter and put shoppers in control of their own spending."

Similarly, Wal-Mart's Sam's Club division will cash checks for free for warehouse club members, and will also offer its own economic stimulus bonus in the form of a $40 gift of membership on select product purchases May 11 through May 31.

Taxpayers earning less than $75,000 annually will receive a $600 refund from the IRS; joint filers earning less than $150,000 will get $1,200, and parents with children younger than 17 will receive $300 per child.

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