Retail Sales Surge as Consumers Rev Up Growth

“A measure of U.S. consumer spending heated up in March, an early sign of accelerating economic growth this spring. Retail sales increased 1.1% in March to a seasonally adjusted $433.9 billion, the Commerce Department said Monday. The reading was the best monthly gain since September 2012 and rose above the level of sales recorded in November, before unusually cold weather chilled spending across much of the country.” [Source: WSJ]

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Showrooming Hits Top-Tier Luxury Brands

“Anna Cariati recently spotted a Saint Laurent clutch in a London boutique. Then the 28-year-old marketing coordinator went online and clicked to purchase on an independent website. ‘I like the whole shop experience, touching the fabrics, but I’m not an impulsive buyer,” says Ms. Cariati. ‘I love to wait until the weekend comes, go to the Internet, compare prices and decide in my own time what I want to buy.’ ”

[Continue reading at Wall Street Journal (subscription required)]

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Comcast: ‘It Bothers Us’ That People Hate Our Customer Service

“During a Senate hearing on its proposed merger with Time Warner Cable, Comcast Executive Vice President David Cohen admitted that Comcast could do a better job on customer service.

“It bothers us we have so much trouble delivering high quality of service to customers on a regular basis,” Cohen said. “Sometimes, we need a kick in the butt.”

Cohen’s comments came just a day after the Consumerist rated Comcast the worst company in America, beating out agricultural giant Monsanto by three percentage points.” [Source: Washington Post]

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Retailers Could Soon Be Liable for Damages from Data Breaches

“California legislature is voting on a new law that would make retailers liable for damages that customers incur as a result of data breaches, such as the one Target suffered recently. The new law would shift the liability from banks and credit card companies to retailers. Bill Dombrowski, president of the California Retailers Association (CRA) says the bill will be one of the year’s biggest disputes over business-related legislation. The CRA includes nearly every national retail chain, which collectively employ 2.8 million workers in California.” [Source: Business Insider]

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Amazon Adds a “Dash” of Convenience with New Magic Wand

“In the last two months, Amazon has spotlighted two new products that allow shoppers to add items to their shopping list without ever typing anything into a search bar. This isn’t a coincidence. The most recent one is Amazon Dash — a thin, wand-like device, revealed on Friday, that includes both a microphone and a barcode scanner. Speak into it or scan a box of cereal or pack of toilet paper to automatically add that product to your AmazonFresh shopping list. For now, it is available only on a trial basis to Amazon customers in San Francisco and Los Angeles who pay for Amazon’s new Prime Fresh membership, which includes grocery delivery.” [Source: Recode]

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How to FedEx a Panda

For the past five years, Dave Lange has handled all FedEx shipments that require a chartered plane, coordinating deliveries of the big, weird, and extra important. His techniques put your stamps and envelopes to shame.

Popular Science: When the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago renovated in 2008, you flew its seven whales to a host aquarium. So how does a whale travel?

Lange: Each one is in a metal container, which has a sling, where the whale sits. The box isn’t completely filled with water; there’s just enough to keep the animal moist.

PS: If you’re moving many animals together on a plane, how do you decide where to put each one?

[Continue reading at Popular Science]

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Neiman Marcus Blends In-Store and Online Teams

“Neiman Marcus has reorganized its management ranks to reflect the merging of its merchandise and planning organizations for both stores and online into a single team. Jim Gold widens his responsibilities and becomes president and chief merchandising officer of Neiman Marcus. Gold, who joined the company in 1991, was president over all stores in the Neiman Marcus Group.” [Source: Dallas Morning News]

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Square Market Now Accepts Bitcoin

“Square today announced it has added support for paying with Bitcoin. As a result, buyers can now use the digital currency to purchase goods and services on Square Market, which allows sellers to create an online storefront with online payment processing. The mobile payment company promises the experience won’t feel any different for sellers and they “don’t have to change a thing, except potentially expecting new trailblazing customers and more sales.” In other words, Square wants them to be able to offer Bitcoin as a payment option without any headaches.” [Source: The Next Web]

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Zappos Labs Provides Customers with Shopping Recommendations on Instagram

“That’s 23 million images associated with what people are wearing, said Will Young, director of Zappos Labs, during SXSW last week. (Zappos Labs is the San Francisco-based experimentation and innovation arm of e-commerce site Zappos.) “We looked at [those figures] and asked as a retailer how do we be a part of that?” The answer? His team recently launched a pilot project on the platform called “Next OOTD.” Very simply, followers are invited to post a selfie along with the hashtag #nextootd. Those who do will receive a personalized shopping recommendation based on their Instagram from Zappos in return. Zappos is of course a company that prides itself, and has become known, for customer service. (Its longest ever phone call was nine and a half hours — and celebrated for that fact, Young revealed.) He said the company is constantly trying to think of lots of different ways to take that service to the next level.” [Source: Fashionista]

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