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BusINess » Consumer

Archives for the ‘Consumer’ Category

Wal-Mart, Michelle Obama announce effort to make, sell healthier foods

Wal-Mart President and CEO Bill Simon looks on as First lady Michelle Obama takes part in Wal-Mart's announcement of a comprehensive effort to provide healthier and more affordable food choices to their customers, Thursday in Washington. (Photograph by Cliff Owen/Associated Press.)

Wal-Mart President and CEO Bill Simon looks on as First lady Michelle Obama takes part in Wal-Mart's announcement of a comprehensive effort to provide healthier and more affordable food choices to their customers, Thursday in Washington.
(Photograph by Cliff Owen/Associated Press.)

Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest grocer, says it will reformulate thousands of products to make them healthier and push its suppliers to do the same, joining first lady Michelle Obama’s effort to combat childhood obesity.

The first lady accompanied Wal-Mart executives Thursday as they announced the effort in Washington. The company plans to reduce sodium and added sugars in some items, build stores in poor areas that don’t already have grocery stores, reduce prices on produce and develop a logo for healthier items.
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NIPSCO wants to snuff 16.8 percent rate hike

A NIPSCO meter reader records numbers from a meter as he walks through a Gary neighborhood. If the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission agrees to vacate NIPSCO's first electric rate request for a 16.8 percent increase for residential customers, it would spare the company and the commission from having to proceed on two major rate cases at once. In the second case filed in November, NIPSCO asked for a more moderate 7.9 percent increase for residential customers. (Photograph by Kyle Telechan, File/The Times.)

A NIPSCO meter reader records numbers from a meter as he walks through a Gary neighborhood. If the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission agrees to vacate NIPSCO's first electric rate request for a 16.8 percent increase for residential customers, it would spare the company and the commission from having to proceed on two major rate cases at once. In the second case filed in November, NIPSCO asked for a more moderate 7.9 percent increase for residential customers. (Photograph by Kyle Telechan, File/The Times.)

NIPSCO filed a joint motion Friday to vacate the first of its two recent electric rate cases, one that called for much more drastic increases for its residential customers.

If the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission agrees to vacate the first rate case, it would spare NIPSCO and the commission from having to proceed on two major rate cases at once.

Right now, both are still busy with the rate case filed in summer 2008. The IURC issued an order in that case in August authorizing the utility to raise electric rates.
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That Santa feeling hasn’t quite left shoppers yet

Shoppers leave the Toys R Us store Sunday in New York's Times Square. (Photograph by Mary Altaffer/The Associated Press.)

Shoppers leave the Toys R Us store Sunday in New York's Times Square.
(Photograph by Mary Altaffer/The Associated Press.)

Forget the returns line. Americans hit the stores after Christmas to buy stuff, indulging the rediscovered retail appetite that may have made 2010’s holiday shopping season the biggest ever.

Revenue for the holiday season is on track to grow at its strongest rate since 2006. Total spending for November and December could exceed 2007 sales—the best season on record. This despite an uncertain economy and a rise in thrifty habits.
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Ugly sweater company is wearing well

Kevin Wool, from left, Adam Paulson and Brian Miller, co-owners of UglyChristmasSweaterParty.com, stand on a pile of sweaters Wednesday in their St. John headquarters. The trio runs the website where users are able to order a variety of ugly Christmas sweaters. (Photograph by Kyle Telechan/The Times.)

Kevin Wool, from left, Adam Paulson and Brian Miller, co-owners of UglyChristmasSweaterParty.com, stand on a pile of sweaters Wednesday in their St. John headquarters. The trio runs the website where users are able to order a variety of ugly Christmas sweaters. (Photograph by Kyle Telechan/The Times.)

It’s becoming the “Halloween of Christmas,” and at the forefront of it all are three friends from Northwest Indiana who are witnessing their fun blog idea from a few years ago turn into one “ugly” little empire.

UglyChristmasSweaterParty.com was founded by Adam Paulson and Kevin Wool, of Crown Point, and Brian Miller, of St. John. “Team Ugly” is celebrating its second Christmas selling a gaudy product by the truckload.
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Give yourself credit

The numbers couldn’t align better: Mortgage rates not seen since the middle of the last century and some home prices lowered back to the beginning of this one.

But many buyers are finding the whole equation spoiled when they factor in another number: their credit score.

Indeed, FICO, the former Fair Isaac Corp., which provides the formula for the credit score used by mortgage lenders, found that nearly 30 percent of people in a recent sampling had a score under 620.
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U.S. gas demand should fall for good after ‘06 peak

Traffic moves north along Interstate 270, in Germantown, Md., the day before the Thanksgiving holiday. The country's thirst for gasoline is shrinking as cars and trucks become more fuel-efficient, the government mandates the use of more ethanol and people drive less. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Traffic moves north along Interstate 270, in Germantown, Md., the day before the Thanksgiving holiday. The country's thirst for gasoline is shrinking as cars and trucks become more fuel-efficient, the government mandates the use of more ethanol and people drive less. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

The world’s biggest gas-guzzling nation has limits after all.

After seven decades of mostly uninterrupted growth, U.S. gasoline demand is at the start of a long-term decline. By 2030, Americans will burn at least 20 percent less gasoline than today, experts say, even as millions of more cars clog the roads.

The country’s thirst for gasoline is shrinking as cars and trucks become more fuel-efficient, the government mandates the use of more ethanol and people drive less.
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NWI customers will feel impact of state energy deal

The state has reached a 30-year deal to buy synthetic natural gas from a $2.6 billion coal-gasification plant planned for southern Indiana in a move that will affect NIPSCO customers’ bills.

The Indiana Finance Authority on Thursday voted 5-0 to buy synthetic natural gas from Indiana Gasification LLC for the next 30 years and have that gas distributed to customers of existing Indiana utilities. The company is a subsidiary of Leucadia National Corp.

Gov. Mitch Daniels touted the vote Thursday, saying it will “protect ratepayers against the likelihood of higher long-term gas prices.”
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Good signs—Retail sales up, CEOs in hiring mood

A strong start to the holiday season is raising confidence that the consumer is back and that 2011 could be a better year for the U.S. economy than expected.

Retail sales are rising, boosted by the best month for department stores in two years. Inflation remains tame. Businesses are restocking their shelves in anticipation of more consumer demand. And a survey of CEOs at America’s biggest companies suggests hiring will pick up in the next six months.

High unemployment remains a concern. The Federal Reserve singled out the nation’s 9.8 percent jobless rate Tuesday when it said it plans to maintain the pace of its $600 billion Treasury bond-buying program.
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Consumers give holiday shopping season a big start

Shoppers take advantage of sales while shopping during Black Friday at the Pentagon City Mall in Arlington, Va. Retail sales rose for a fifth straight month in November as the biggest jump in department store sales in two years got the holiday shopping season off to a jolly start. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Shoppers take advantage of sales while shopping during Black Friday at the Pentagon City Mall in Arlington, Va. Retail sales rose for a fifth straight month in November as the biggest jump in department store sales in two years got the holiday shopping season off to a jolly start. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Retail sales rose for a fifth straight month in November, suggesting a strong holiday shopping season and raising hopes that consumers will boost the economy in the coming months.

The best month for department stores in two years helped lift retail sales 0.8 percent last month, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

November’s sales figures were better than economists had expected, prompting many to revise their forecasts for consumer spending growth in the October-December quarter. Still, many cautioned that the economy needs more hiring and higher pay to sustain those spending gains in the new year.
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Retailers seek reform on alcohol sales laws

Changing Indiana’s “antiquated” rules on alcohol sales could provide a boost in state revenue and a shot in the arm for businesses, a Northwest Indiana business executive and representatives from lobbying groups said Thursday.

In a meeting at The Times, Luke Oil President Tom Collins and leaders from two Indianapolis-based groups said they are lobbying for legislation allowing retailers to sell carryout alcohol on Sundays, allowing all licensed retailers the right to sell cold beer and making other changes for sales rules.
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