Consumer Confidential: Home prices hit bottom, Toys R Us hiring, holiday wish list unveiled
Here's your take-me-to-the-river Tuesday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:
-- Has the housing market bottomed out? Karl Case, co-creator of the S&P/Case-Shiller index, says home prices have finally turned a corner and we can now expect slow increases as the economy gradually improves. "It’s bouncing along the bottom, it stopped that free-fall," Case says. The index of property values in 20 U.S. cities increased 3.2% in July from 12 months earlier, the smallest year-over-year gain since March. Let's hope Case is right. Most experts say we won't see anything close to a vibrant economic rebound until the housing market finds its footing.
-- Looking for some temp work? Toys R Us says it will double its U.S. workforce this holiday season by bringing on an additional 45,000 employees. The hiring is part of an aggressive new approach by the toy retailer to blitz consumers with "pop-up" stores during peak buying seasons. Toys R Us has opened about 600 Toys R Us Express outlets nationwide, typically in vacant spaces and only for a few months. But some of the express stores end up turning into proper stores, and a foot in the door as a temp worker can turn into a full-time gig if you get lucky.
--Speaking of toys, Santa's elves (i.e. professional toy-market analysts) says the hot items this year are high-tech and low-cost. High on the list are tiny remote-control cars from Mattel and nearly paper-thin electronic guitars and drums from WowWee Toys called Paper Jamz. Most of these gotta-gave-it gadgets sell for less than $30. I noticed one toy on the list call Scrabble Flash from Hasbro. It's a $29.99 electronic game with eight cubes with digital screens on them that click together to form words. Sounds fun, I guess. But I'll stick with ordinary Scrabble.
-- David Lazarus