Retail Briefs - Twice

Retail Briefs

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Circuit City Testing eBay Seller Service

Richmond, Va.— Circuit City has developed a new sideline: eBay sales assistant. For a fee, customers can now drop off merchandise — CE and non-CE alike — at participating Circuit stores, where staffers will assume all eBay auction functions, from posting photographs and descriptions to fulfillment. The chain charges 35 percent of the selling price, plus a 4 percent commission for eBay and its PayPal payment system. Circuit began testing the service last month at 10 stores in the Atlanta area, and according to CIBC World Markets' retail analyst Dan Wewer, plans to expand the concept into Pittsburgh.

Best Buy Selling Gateway CE Overstock

Minneapolis— Best Buy has acquired excess and end-of-lifecycle CE inventory from Gateway's defunct retail chain, including MP3 players, LCD TVs and home theater systems, representing the first time that Gateway-branded goods will appear in Best Buy's assortment. While the nation's No. 1 CE chain described the deal as an opportunistic buy, a Gateway spokesperson suggested that it could lay the groundwork for future placements there and with other retailers. Gateway's stores had reportedly been a sticking point for Best Buy, which is already a major outlet for the PC maker's recently acquired eMachine business.

Kmart's Home Depot Deal Fuels Speculation

Troy, Mich.— Kmart's recently announced sale of up to 24 stores to Home Depot for $365 million has sparked speculation that a similar deal may be in the works with Sears. Analysts note that Kmart's chairman and majority shareholder Edward Lampert also holds about 14 percent of Sears' stock through his Connecticut-based hedge fund, making him the chain's single largest investor. What's more, Sears has recently begun looking to off-the-mall locations, such as Kmart's strip center terrain, as a way to stimulate sluggish sales. Kmart will reap upwards of $365 million from Home Depot, or about $15 million per store in the transaction, which is expected to close within the next two months.

Home Depot Adds A/V

Atlanta— The Home Depot, whose CE assortment has traditionally been limited to telephones, batteries and other accessories, has dipped its toe into the A/V waters. New for the nation's largest home improvement chain is a 15-inch LCD TV and a 300-watt HTiB, both bearing the Magnavox badge, and 900 MHz wireless speaker pairs from RCA/Thomson. All are available online only, at price points of $399 for the 1,024-by-768 resolution display, $279 for the home theater combo system and $69 for the speakers.

Higher Energy Prices Linked To Lower Comps

New York— Common wisdom dictates that anything that diverts consumer dollars away from retail coffers, including soaring gasoline prices, is bad for business. Retail analyst Aram Rubinson and his research team at Banc of America Securities (BAS) have now made a statistical case for the correlation between high energy costs and weakened same store sales by comparing Wal-Mart's monthly comps with the average monthly price of gasoline. Their conclusion: every 10 cents per gallon costs Wal-Mart comps 1 percent. Based on pricing forecasts by the Energy Information Administration, the BAS crew estimates that "Wal-Mart's comps could experience as much as 3 points of deceleration" this quarter over last.

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