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Consumer Confidence Index falls to 46.6 in July

BY HBSDEALER Staff

The latest Consumer Confidence Index, released Tuesday from the Conference Board, reported that consumer confidence has dropped for the second straight month.

In July, the index fell to 46.6 in July, from 49.3 in June.

The Consumer Confidence Index, based on the Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Survey, consists of the Present Situation Index, which decreased from an adjusted score of 25 in June to 23.4 in July, and the Expectations Index, which decreased from 65.5 in June to 62 in July.

The percentage of consumers rating current business conditions as “bad” increased from an adjusted 45.3% in June to 46.3% in July, although the percentage rating current business conditions as “good” increased from an adjusted 8.1% to 9.1%.

The percentage of consumers who think jobs are hard to get increased from 44.8% to 48.1%, while those who think jobs are “plentiful” decreased from 4.5% to 3.6%.

The percentage of consumers anticipating an improvement in business conditions during the next six months decreased from an adjusted 20.9% to 18%. In addition, those expecting conditions to worsen also decreased from an adjusted 20.4% to 18.9%.

Consumers had a mixed view of the short-term future of the labor market. The percentage of consumers expecting more jobs in the months ahead decreased to an adjusted 17.5% to 15%, while those expecting fewer jobs decreased as well, from an adjusted 27.6% to 26.3%.

Lynn Franco, director of the Conference Board Consumer Research Center, said the most recent consumer confidence figures demonstrate continuing weakness in the U.S. economy.

“Consumer confidence, which had rebounded strongly in late spring, has faded in the last two months,” said Franco. “The decline in the Present Situation Index was caused primarily by a worsening job market. The decline in the Expectations Index was more the result of an increase in the proportion of consumers expecting no change in business and labor market conditions.”

More consumers are pessimistic about their income expectations, which does not bode well for spending in the months ahead, added Franco.

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Home Depot to accept MasterCard PayPass

BY HBSDEALER Staff

MasterCard Worldwide announced Monday that Home Depot will begin accepting its contactless payment system, MasterCard PayPass, at 1,974 retail locations across the United States.

The MasterCard PayPass is designed to provide customers with faster transactions and greater payment convenience: Customers simply tap their MasterCard PayPass cards or devices on a PayPass reader at checkout to complete their purchases.

“Contactless payments meet consumer demand for more convenient ways to pay in retail environments,” said Cathleen Conforti, SVP, Global PayPass, MasterCard Worldwide. “The increasing popularity of MasterCard PayPass demonstrates that merchants and customers alike appreciate the speed and convenience PayPass delivers, as consumers continue to shift their preference to electronic payments from cash and check.”

In addition to MasterCard PayPass, Home Depot will continue accepting all other traditional magnetic-stripe payment-card brands.

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Affluent Americans spending on outdoor improvements, study says

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Affluent Americans — or those making $100,000 or more annually — are spending more on their outdoor living spaces, according to a study by Unity Marketing.

Spending by this group on outdoor living luxuries rose 22.6% from 2007 to 2008, and the trend has continued in the first quarter of 2009, with spending up 33% over the same quarter last year.

The Unity Marketing report — called ATrend Report on the Market for Outdoor Living Products — is based on quarterly surveys among 1,000 to 1,200 affluent consumers conducted in 2007, 2008 and the first quarter of 2009. 

Benefiting most from increased spending on outdoor living goods are big-box home improvement stores like Home Depot and Lowe’s, where the average amount spent by affluent shoppers surged 24% in the first quarter of 2009 compared with the same period last year.

“In the current recession, affluent consumers are investing more in luxuries for their homes and less on experiences, such as dining and travel,” says Pam Danziger, president of Unity Marketing, commenting on the company’s latest survey of luxury consumers. “Opportunities abound for marketers and retailers that tap into the product categories where affluents are still willing to indulge, like the outdoor living areas of their homes.” 

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