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Consumer Confidential: Retail sales, Target bulks up, healthy cellphones

January 7, 2010 | 10:06 am

Here's your think-hard Thursday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--We're shopping again. That's the undeniable fact from the holiday season, which saw modest gains in retail sales, according to industry groups. The better-than-expected numbers even prompted some retailers to raise their profit outlooks for the year. But the news isn't all good: Last year saw the biggest sales decline in about 40 years, meaning that employers still have some ground to cover before they start hiring in droves.

--Even though we're shopping, we still like our discounts. So retail heavyweight Target says it will experiment with warehouse-style bulk items to grab a piece of Costco's and other warehouse clubs' action. As part of the company's "Great Save" promotion, you can score industrial-size packages of toilet paper and toothpaste along with sweet deals on electronics and kids' clothing. If the campaign pays off, Target may keep the bulk items around longer.

--Remember those studies suggesting that cellphone use can give you brain tumors? Well, researchers at the University of South Florida say long-term exposure to electromagnetic waves may protect against -- and even reverse -- Alzheimer's disease. "It surprised us to find that cellphone exposure, begun in early adulthood, protects the memory of mice otherwise destined to develop Alzheimer's symptoms," said one researcher, Gary Arendash. "It was even more astonishing that the electromagnetic waves generated by cellphones actually reversed memory impairment in old Alzheimer's mice." Call me when we know more.

-- David Lazarus

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