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Brand Keys: Back-to-school sales to decline; Amazon and Wal-Mart strong

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Households with school-age children (pre-kindergarten through 12th grade) plan a big cut-back in back-to-school spending. Results of the 2013 Brand Keys Back to School Report Card show that there will be a year-over-year decrease of 10% in back-to-school spending, or an average spend this year of just more than $600 per household. 

However, not every retailer will experience a decline in back-to-school profits. This year, the eight retailers showing the greatest increase in consumer intent-to-shop were:

  1. Amazon
  2. Wal-Mart
  3. Target
  4. Macy’s
  5. Zappos
  6. TJ Maxx / Kohl’s
  7. Best Buy / Footlocker
  8. Staples 

Average anticipated spending in the major back-to-school categories are all down from last year. This includes:

  • Clothing: $301 (-29%)
  • Shoes: (athletic & dress) $110 (-23%)
  • Computers/Electronics/Tablets/Smartphones: $150 (-32%)
  • Supplies: $39 (-60%)
  • Books/Study Aids: $10 (-56%)

Looking at preferred retail categories for back-to-school spending, discount stores, online platforms and, secondarily, catalogs were the only categories to show any increase. Ninety-seven percent of households will shop at discount stores (up 4%), while 72% will shop online (up 34%), 28% will shop at department stores (down 44%), 25% will patronize office supply stores (down 55%), 30% will frequent specialty retailers (down 10%) and 35% will use catalogs (up 3%). 

This year’s survey showed that 70% of consumers intend to wait until the middle-to-end of August period to shop just before schools open. The genesis of the shorter back-to-school purchase cycle is a consequence of increased levels of consumer expectations, according to Brand Keys analysis.

“Some of what we’re seeing reflects concerns of a slowing economic recovery, but the specific back-to-school figures also represent a shift in consumer buying habits,” said Robert Passikoff, Brand Keys founder and president. “Retailers may be running back-to-school ads right now, but they’ve been discounting and couponing for the past seven months. Educated consumers have already stockpiled supplies for the first day of school.”

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Suspension of alcoholic employee does not violate ADAAA

BY Roy Maurer

An employer did not discriminate against an alcoholic worker by suspending her for being drunk at work and ordering her to remain alcohol- and drug-free for one year, the U.S. 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals has ruled in Clifford v. Rockland Cnty., (2d Cir., No. 12-3083).

The 2nd Circuit affirmed that special conditions imposed on employees identified as substance abusers are not grounds for discrimination and retaliation claims under the Americans with Disabilities Act Amendments Act (ADAAA).

Deirdre Clifford was suspended from her position as a cashier at a Rockland County, N.Y., health department cafeteria after she was cited for being intoxicated at work. Clifford served her suspension and eventually signed a return-to-work agreement that required her to submit to random drug and alcohol tests for one year upon her return.

She was later injured after collapsing in the kitchen and remained unable to work at the time she filed the complaint.

Clifford sued the county, alleging discrimination and retaliation under the ADAAA, among other claims. Specifically, she argued that the county failed to engage in the ADAAA-required “interactive process,” or otherwise to make reasonable accommodations for her alcoholism, and that the discipline she received was discriminatory because it effectively prohibited her from ingesting alcohol while off duty, a condition not imposed on workers without an alcohol-related disability.

The court was not convinced that she was denied a reasonable accommodation. “Here, it is undisputed that, over the years of Clifford’s employment, the County had accommodated her disability by acceding to requests for time off to secure treatment for relapses,” the court said. “Clifford can hardly charge the County with having failed to afford her a reasonable accommodation when, instead of pursuing termination after the [initial] incident, it agreed to a suspension that afforded her the opportunity to return to work on a showing that she posed no serious risk of relapse.”

The court noted that the county terminated at least two other hospital employees for substance-abuse violations.

“Clifford cannot demonstrate that the County’s actions in affording her an opportunity to return to her job were pretexts for discriminatory bias,” the court said.

The court also found that Clifford’s contention that the discipline she received was discriminatory failed to raise evidence of pretext. “While its provision that, for a year following Clifford’s return to work, no level of alcohol in her blood would be tolerated was one not generally imposed on other employees, we have already ruled that special conditions imposed on employees identified as substance abusers do not violate the ADA.”

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM. Follow him on Twitter @SHRMRoy.

Have HR-related questions and concerns? Get access to essential forms, policies and guides, plus a live call center, at ToolkitHR.com, powered by HCN and the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM). 

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Study finds rental is growing faster than the economy

BY HBSDEALER Staff

A strong construction market, particularly residential construction, is a key variable in the positive forecast released Monday by the equipment rental industry.

The equipment rental industry in the United States continues to outpace gross domestic product (GDP) in the United States by four times in 2013, according to American Rental Association’s (ARA) latest forecast from the ARA Rental Market Monitor.

Revenues will reach $33.5 billion in revenue, representing a 7.0% increase over 2012 with revenue growth reaching 7.8% in the fourth quarter, according to the latest quarterly forecast updated July 29, 2013. 

Economic data and analysis for ARA’s Rental Market Monitor is compiled by IHS Global Insight, an economic forecasting firm based in Lexington, Mass.

In the United States, the construction market and consumer spending continue to be the most important drivers of growth of the equipment rental market in 2013. 

“Though real nonresidential construction is forecast to decline 0.8%, real residential construction is expected to grow 8.2%, yielding an overall real construction growth rate of 2.6% in 2013,” according to the U.S. economic analysis from the ARA Rental Market Monitor. “Real consumer spending is projected to increase 1.9% in 2013, with spending on recreational services forecast to grow 1.3%. These improvements will translate into increased revenue in all segments of the equipment rental market.”

The construction and industrial equipment segment is forecast to grow 8.1% in 2013, while general tool segment revenue is expected to increase 5.4% over 2012. Party and event rental revenue is forecast to increase 2.4%. The second quarter of 2013 is projected to be the slowest for the overall rental equipment market compared with 2012, but quarter-on-quarter growth is forecast to pick up in the final two quarters of the year.

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