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Retail Roundup: Wedding dresses at Costco, home improvement sellers ramp up competition, more Borders closures, fast-casual restaurants see sales rise

March 19, 2011 |  6:02 am

-- Costco is making it possible to pick up a year's supply of toilet paper and a wedding dress in the same trip. That's right, the discount warehouse chain is now hawking designer wedding dresses at 40% off retail, joining major chains such as Urban Outfitters Inc., J.Crew, Ann Taylor, Nordstrom and White House Black Market that sell wedding dresses. 

-- For the second year, Home Depot is kicking off spring -- its busiest time of the year -- with Spring Black Friday. The campaign will feature deals on products such as live goods and lawn care products, power tools, outdoor patio items and grills, and will be implemented on four different weekends in the spring on a market-by-market basis, the company said.

"For us, spring is our Christmas," said Joe McFarland, president of the company's Western division. "As other retailers do Black Friday in the traditional standpoint, we really want to offer our customers incredible values when they need it the most."

In February, Home Depot announced that it would hire 60,000 seasonal employees to prepare for the spring rush, the busiest time of the year for home improvement sellers.

-- Not to be outdone, Sears is introducing a Turf Wars marketing campaign in an effort to woo shoppers looking for lawn and garden products away from its competitors. The campaign will include broadcast, print, in-store and online ads, and is notable in that Sears is naming its main rivals -- Home Depot and Lowe's -- in them.

In one commercial, Sears storms a Home Depot parking lot with tractors and lawn mowers and says, "Your lawn is worth fighting for." Sears says the campaign is intended to shatter customer misconceptions about the retailer and to assure shoppers that they won't find better prices anywhere else.

-- Borders, which filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month and said it would close 200 locations, announced 28 more store closures. Seven of the new closures are in California, including locations in Hollywood, San Diego and Bakersfield. A complete store closure list can be found here.

-- Visits to the leading fast-casual restaurant chains grew 17% over the last three years while the rest of the industry experienced its steepest traffic declines in decades, according to NPD Group, a market research company.

NPD says fast-casual restaurants are concepts that offer more service and higher quality food and have a larger average check size than other fast-food restaurants. The company found that visits to the leading fast-casual restaurant chains -- such as Chipotle, Five Guys Burgers and Fries, Noodles & Company and Panera -- were up more than 6% last year. The rest of the industry saw a 1% decline during that time, NPD said.

-- Andrea Chang