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Consumer Confidential: Retail sales up, GM recalls Cruze, more millionaires coming

May 5, 2011 | 10:06 am

Bunnypic Here's your thou-swell Thursday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

--The Easter bunny was good to retailers this year. Sales for the eggiest of holidays were up, extending strong spending momentum seen since late last year. A diverse group of merchants -- including Costco, the parent of Victoria's Secret, and teen retailer The Buckle -- posted soaring revenue and beat Wall Street expectations. But some retailers are warning that rising gas and food prices will prompt many consumers to throttle back on the spending. Last week, Mike Duke, chief executive of Wal-Mart, said the company is already seeing higher gas prices having an effect on shoppers, who are cutting back on discretionary items as their spending power erodes.

 --General Motors has a hot seller on its hands with the Chevy Cruze compact. It also has a potential problem with the steering system and is recalling about 150,000 of the vehicles. There's concern that intermediate steering shaft covers (whatever those may be) were installed improperly. This is the second steering-related recall for the Cruze. About 2,500 in North America were recalled a month ago to check the bolt securing the steering wheel to the column after one incident of a steering wheel coming loose. GM has since said it found no other improperly fastened wheels. The Cruze is a key model for Chevy -- in April, it broke into the list of top 10 best-selling vehicles in the U.S.

--Who wants to be a millionaire? Looks like there'll be more of them around as the economy recovers. Despite the Great Recession, which wiped out $15.5 trillion in household wealth in the United States alone, the number of millionaires in this country and abroad will grow rapidly over the next decade, according to the Deloitte Center for Financial Services. In the U.S., the total number of families with a net worth of over $1 million will double by 2020. With 10.5 million, the U.S. has -- by far -- the greatest number of millionaire households in the world. The number of millionaire households is expected to return to pre-crisis levels by 2015 and reach 20.6 million in 2020. Within the U.S., California will likely have the highest number of wealthy households by 2020, while Wyoming is forecast to have the fewest.

-- David Lazarus

Photo: Here's one shopper retailers were glad to see. Credit: Los Angeles Times