Consumer Confidential: Holiday sales, food prices, VW recall
-- Merry Christmas. Retailers are already kicking the holiday season into gear. Christmas merchandise has been at Costco stores since Sept. 1 and will begin showing up on some Home Depot shelves Sept. 19. Kmart and Sears will begin selling Christmas trimmings Sept. 25. And Wal-Mart and J.C. Penney will start selling Christmas merchandise before month's end. More than 37% of shoppers — including 42% of women — plan to do some holiday shopping by Halloween, according to the National Retail Federation. Retailers are happy to oblige as they chase an estimated $450 billion of holiday spending. Ho ho ho.
-- But save some cash for your grocery bills. Food prices could rise next year because an unseasonably hot summer probably damaged much of this year's corn crop. The Department of Agriculture estimates that a surplus of 672 million bushels of corn will be left over at the end of next summer. The estimated surplus is down from last month's forecast and well below levels that are considered healthy. This spring, farmers planted the second-largest crop since World War II. But high temperatures stunted the plants. More expensive corn drives food prices higher because corn is an ingredient in everything from animal feed to cereal to soft drinks. It takes about six months for changes in corn prices to affect products at the grocery store.
-- Heads up: Volkswagen is recalling more than 30,000 Jetta sedans from the 2011 and 2012 model years because the tailpipes can stick out too far and burn people. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration says stainless steel exhaust pipe tips installed at ports of entry and dealerships can stick out farther than the factory-installed tailpipes. If the tips are hot, they can burn people on the legs. Volkswagen received complaints of burns in July and began investigating. The company says the complaints came from fewer than 10 people. Dealers will inspect the recalled cars to see if the exhaust tips are too long and will replace them free of charge if necessary.
-- David Lazarus
Photo: Look who's already getting ready for work. Credit: CBS