Eastman Kodak adding to mix of retail services

Filed under: Retail |

Eastman Kodak Co. has launched the Kodak Creative Network (creative.kodak.com), an online design and printing solution for the small office/home market.

Kodak Creative Network provides the benefits of an experienced design firm and a high quality printing house and offers one-stop online shopping for the wide range of printed marketing materials essential for small business growth.

Kodak also is offering a new retail opportunity for turning consumer’s digital pictures into highly-personalized photo merchandise.

Kodak Easyshare Custom Creations Software creates personalized photo products such as photo books, calendars and collages at home on the desktop. A retailer can either produce the photo books and calendars on-site or utilize Qualex for fulfillment. The finished product can be returned to the store for pick-up or delivered directly to the consumer.

The software, which is free, will be available in May at www.kodak.com.

Retailers looking for an entry-level solution to self-service picture printing will soon be able to purchase the Kodak GS Compact Picture Maker. Its compact countertop design is space efficient and well-suited for smaller shops with demand for 30-70 prints per day. The kiosk will be available worldwide beginning in September, and will be priced around $2,500.

February retail sales posted mixed results

According to the National Retail Federation, retail industry sales for February (which exclude automobiles, gas stations, and restaurants) rose 2.7 percent unadjusted compared to last year and declined 0.5 percent seasonally adjusted from January.

February retail sales released by the U.S. Commerce Department show that total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as autos, gasoline stations and restaurants) increased 0.1 percent from January and 3.4 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

“Winter weather and the slowing housing market put a dent in what could have been a solid February for many retailers,” said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells.

February retail sales saw mixed results across the board. The winter weather seen last month throughout the country kept consumers home instead of in the stores.

Clothing and clothing accessory stores sales increased 4.6 percent unadjusted from last year, but decreased 1.8 percent from January. Electronics and appliance stores sales saw gains of 4.6 percent unadjusted year-over year, but were also impacted by the weather with a 0.3 percent decrease in seasonally adjusted month-to-month sales.

Health and personal care stores sales increased 5.9 percent unadjusted from last February and were flat compared to the previous month.

The obvious effect of cold weather and the housing market also impacted building material and garden equipment and supplies stores whose February sales decreased 7 percent unadjusted compared to last year. Adjusted month-to-month sales in the same category decreased 1.4 percent.

NRF continues to expect 2007 sales to increase 4.8 percent compared to 2006.

Container traffic building at major retail ports

Traffic at the nation’s major retail container ports is beginning to climb out of the slow season and could top last year’s peak as early as July, according to the monthly Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Global Insight.

Nationwide, the ports that were surveyed handled 1.26 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units (TEUs) of container traffic in January, the most recent month for which actual numbers are available. The figure was down 0.35 percent from December but up 3.4 percent from January 2006.

Volume is following its usual pattern of declining during the winter months, although numbers continue to show growth from a year ago. February (historically the slowest month of the year) is forecast at 1.17 million TEU (up 10.2 percent from February 2006). Volume will begin to move upward again in March, forecast at 1.29 million TEU (up 3.5 percent from March 2006).

April is forecast at 1.37 million TEU (up 3.5 percent from April 2006), May at 1.39 million TEU (up 5.6 percent from May 2006), June at 1.42 million TEU (up 4.8 percent from June 2006) and July at 1.47 million TEU (up 9.7 percent from July 2006).

The July figure would top last year’s peak of 1.45 million TEU set in October. One TEU is a 20-foot cargo container or its equivalent.

U.S. chain store sales up 2.5 percent for February

Colder than normal temperatures, along with heavy winter storms throughout the United States pared some consumer spending opportunities in February. As a result, overall U.S. chain store sales increased by only 2.5 percent on a year-over-year basis, according to International Council of Shopping Centers.

Luxury stores led the way as sales grew 11.2 percent for the month. Drug stores and wholesale clubs posted positive results as sales increased by 6.6 percent and 3.9 percent, respectively. The other sectors that posted increases were department chain stores (2.1 percent) and discount stores (1.5 percent). As a result of the colder and stormy weather, apparel chain store sales decreased by 0.8 percent for the month.

Michael Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist and director of research, expects same-store sales to increase about 4 percent for March.

Joan Johnson covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.