Retail group sees an upbeat ChristmasThe National...


Retail group sees an upbeat Christmas

The National Retail Federation says U.S. retailers might face a surprising development this Christmas season:

Good news.

In spite of lingering gloom about the economy, the trade group forecasts a 2.5 percent year-to-year increase in unit volume this holiday season. Figuring in inflation, estimated at 1.5 percent, the group predicts the dollar total could rise 4 percent over last year's post-election buying binge.

But what about consumer confidence, higher taxes and high unemployment?

That, says the group, is just the "whining of America." Taxes on lower-income Americans have been cut, unemployment is declining and consumers are acting with confidence, whatever they're telling survey-takers, it says.

The retail group points to a jump of 4.9 percent in nonauto retail spending from June to August and an 8.1 percent gain in the use of consumer credit from last year. Add to that a gas price decrease over the year that has negated the recent 4.3 percent tax increase, rising home sales and low interest rates, and you have the makings of a merry little Christmas indeed, the group predicts.

The downside: Maryland might not be invited to the holiday party this year. Retail sales in the mid-Atlantic were among the nation's slowest during the first half of 1993, and with negative employment growth, no dramatic turnaround is expected.

'Toby Terrier,' an obedient toy

Television has been getting kids to jump up and do its bidding for years. Why shouldn't it work just as well with kids' toys?

Tiger Electronics Inc., of Vernon Hills, Ill., claims to have found a way to do that with its "Toby Terrier and His Video Pals" videotapes, which are going on sale this holiday season. The company bills the product as an "interactive video," meaning that it sends subliminal commands to a Toby Terrier doll when the toy is propped in front of the tube.

"He magically comes to life, responding physically and audibly in a myriad of ways to the action on the screen," reads Tiger's gushy press release.

For less than $50, kids will get a Toby puppy and a "Meet Toby Terrier" videotape. Then there are three tapes at $12.99 and another three, with a "special speech expansion cartridge that increases Toby's vocabulary," for $14.99.

Barney, come home. All is forgiven.

Coke returns to India as regulations ease

Sixteen years after the Indian government showed Coca-Cola the door, the soft-drink giant is back.

Coke left in 1977 after refusing to comply with a government order to transfer 60 percent of its equity to an Indian company. IBM pulled out for the same reason.

But many multinationals, including IBM, have been returning to India since Prime Minister P. V. Narasimha Rao began scrapping cumbersome investment rules, cutting red tape and opening India's economy to foreigners.

On Sunday, Atlanta-based Coca-Cola Co. relaunched its fizzy drink in a small village near Agra, 125 miles south of New Delhi.

Coke's re-entry was made possible after India's largest soft-drink maker, Parle Exports Ltd., signed a $70 million joint venture with the American company.

Stouffer Harborplace captures 3 awards

Stouffer Harborplace Hotel has been solidifying its reputation as a host of business meetings with a trio of industry awards.

In recent months, the hotel has garnered a Pinnacle award from Successful Meetings magazine, a 1993 Gold Key Award from Meetings & Conventions Magazine, and an Award of Excellence from Corporate & Incentive Travel Magazine.

Besides pointing up the high level of regard Stouffer has won in industry circles, the awards also show that people in the business travel field must have a lot of time to read magazines.

General Mills names Sanger as president

Minneapolis-based General Mills Inc. yesterday named Stephen Sanger president, a newly created position. Sanger, who joined General Mills in 1974, had been vice chairman for the company's Big G cereals and Yoplait yogurt products; Red Lobster and The Olive Garden restaurants; and the company's consumer foods sales division.

OK believed near for biotech tomato

A genetically engineered tomato called "Flavr Savr" by its developer, Calgene Inc., and "Franken-tomato" by its critics may win marketing approval soon from federal regulators.

The California-based biotech company hopes the Flavr Savr, the first genetically engineered whole food product, will be approved by federal regulators this month. Executives plan to ship the tomatoes immediately upon approval to a Midwest test market that includes Chicago.

The stakes are high -- a $5 billion market with little brand loyalty. Now the market is fed largely by tomatoes that are picked green, and are later altered with gas that turns them red.

For the Flavr Savr, Calgene cloned the gene in the tomato that causes it to soften and inserted a backward copy of the gene into the tomato to retard softening. Growers can then wait until the tomatoes turn pink and have developed more flavor before picking them.

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