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Retail Roundup: Gap's Online Sales to Top $1 Billion, Walgreens to Revamp Format, and More

Gap's online sales to top $1 billion -- Despite the dire retail economy, Gap Inc. recently announced that it expects to top the $1 billion e-commerce mark for 2008. The company made headlines this year by experimenting with several new online strategies, including the integration of its four brands, Old Navy, Banana Republic, Gap, and Piperlime, into a single, universal shopping platform. The "customer friendly" move gives shoppers the ability to make purchases from the four online stores with one shopping cart and one shipping fee. Still the expected 10.7 percent online sales growth projected for 2008 is far from outpacing 2007's huge 23.7 percent growth. [Source: internetretailer]

Walgreens looks to revamp format -- As Kermit the Frog has often said, "It's not easy being green" -- Walgreen Co., that is. The company recently hired the consulting firm Booz Allen Hamilton after several recent blows, chief among them the resignation of CEO Jeffrey Rein following a failed acquisition bid for Longs. Yet, trouble for the chain dates further back; last year, Walgreens' chief competitor, CVS, merged with Caremark, a move that allowed CVS to raise the stakes by entering into pharmacy benefits in a dominant position in regard to mail-order capability. Walgreens is now reportedly working to change its drugstore format, and, on Oct. 30, the company will unveil plans to improve store operations. [Source: Reuters]

Layaway is back in style -- While consumers read about comparisons between today's economy and that during the Great Depression, they continue to slip into the shopping habits made common during the historical dark spot. In addition to trimming spending, they've been using layaway services, requesting that stores put items aside for them until they are paid for in full. While not all retailers offer layaway, many of those that do, including TJ Maxx, Marshalls, Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse and Kmart, report that the demand for layaway is stronger than it has been in years. Kmart has even boasted its layaway services as the focal point of a national advertising campaign. [Source: WSJ]

Wal-Mart notices 'disturbing' consumer behavior -- Wal-Mart's recent admission that consumers' spending habits are changing-- even at the low-priced retail behemoth -- could spell trouble for the industry. Wal-Mart U.S. chief Eduardo Castro-Wright said Wal-Mart shoppers are cutting credit card use in addition to other "disturbing behaviors." [Source: BloggingStocks]

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