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Wal-Mart prepares for pragmatism

NEW YORK » If Wal-Mart is right, Americans will be inundated with undergarments this holiday season.

Bill Simon, the new president and chief executive officer of the world’s largest retailer’s U.S. business, says prices and practical thinking will drive shoppers as they look for gifts. He plans to be prepared.

"Our customers remain challenged," Simon said at a recent Goldman Sachs retail industry conference. "So for all you adults, you should plan for socks and underwear."

For children, the chain is focusing on hot toys and electronics, he said.

Simon aims to reverse five straight quarters of declining revenue at stores open at least a year, a key measure of retailers’ health.

It could be an especially challenging holiday season, given that Walmart shoppers facing tight budgets delayed their back-to-school purchases even longer than last year — many waiting to spend until after school started.

Wal-Mart benefited during the recession as affluent shoppers opted for cheaper stores. But stubbornly high unemployment and tight credit are still squeezing its main U.S. customers, lower-income workers.

TOTAL RECALL

» About 13,500 Giant Starbuilder and Giant Stars building sets, manufactured in China and distributed by Edushape Ltd. of Deer Park, N.Y., because the plastic knobs on the stars can break off and pose a choking risk. There have been three reports of knobs breaking off of stars, but no reports of injuries. The toys were sold by small retail stores nationwide, as well as online by Target, Toys "R" Us and CSN through Walmart Marketplace, between January 2007 and May 2010. Details: by phone at 800-404-4744; online at www.cpsc.gov.

» About 14,400 Click Armband Bracelets, 7,900 Klick Klick Balls and 14,400 BoBo Balls distributed by Fun Stuff Inc., of Newport News, Va. The balls on the toy’s arms can detach, posing a choking hazard to young children. CPSC has received one report of a ball detaching in a 21-month-old girl’s mouth in Charlotte, N.C. Call 888-386-7833 for more information.

 

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