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Consumer Confidential: St. Pat's brew, Blockbuster woes, iPhone envy

March 17, 2010 | 10:13 am

Here's your Wearin' o' the Green Wednesday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

-- Well, it's St. Patrick's Day, and that means a grand day for hoisting a brew or two. Or not. Our friends at Nielsen say the holiday ranks last for retail-store beer sales out of 11 holidays tracked by the company. About 49 million cases of beer were sold at grocery stores in the two weeks before St. Pat's last year, compared with 63 million in the lead-up to the Fourth of July. On the other hand, market experts say St. Pat's typically involves drinking at bars and pubs, and not so much at home, so it's probably a safe bet that more than a few people will be in celebratory mode as the day progresses.

-- Times change. Blockbuster Inc. used to be one of the big dogs on the video-rental front. Now it's warning that bankruptcy could be imminent and its stock is taking a pounding. The company's brick-and-mortar business model simply can't compete with online powerhouses like Netflix and vending machines operated by Coinstar. As a result, Blockbuster says it faces "significant liquidity constraints" and may have to file for bankruptcy protection if its creditors don't agree to restructure a big chunk of debt. Too bad. I used to like browsing the video store for flicks I haven't seen.

-- BlackBerry users, they say, are fanatical about their smart phones. That is, unless there's something cooler to be had. A new survey by market researcher Crowd Science finds that 40% of BlackBerry users secretly covet iPhones, and will likely jump ship as soon as they can. And about a third of BlackBerry users are eyeballing those Google-powered Android smart phones. "These results show that the restlessness of BlackBerry users with their current brand hasn't just been driven by the allure of iPhone," said John Martin, CEO of Crowd Science. It also shows that new and cool count for something.

-- David Lazarus


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