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Consumer Confidential: Weak retail sales, returns a-plenty

Here's your tea-for-two Tuesday roundup of consumer news from around the Web:

-- We're still wary when we go shopping. Retail sales rose less than expected in November as a drop in receipts for food and beverages weighed against stronger sales of motor vehicles, tempering some of the expectations of a strong holiday shopping season. Total retail sales increased 0.2% after rising by an upwardly revised 0.6% in October, according to the Commerce Department. Consumer spending -- which accounts for more than two-thirds of U.S. economic activity -- rose sharply in the third quarter but November's retail sales growth was the weakest in any month since June. (Reuters)

-- And when we do shop, we're not always satisfied. Consumers are returning an increasing amount of electronic gadgets even when they're not defective, generating huge costs for retailers and manufacturers, according to the consulting firm Accenture. It estimates that in 2011, U.S. consumer electronics manufacturers, carriers and retailers will spend $16.7 billion to process returned merchandise. This includes repairing, reboxing, restocking and reselling products. The amount spent on returns represents 5% to 6% of revenue for manufacturers and 2% to 3% of sales for retailers. The report also says the return rate for consumer electronics devices is between 11% and 20%, with about 58% of gadget retailers reporting higher return rates than previous years. (Chicago Tribune)

-- David Lazarus

 
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