One-Cent Sales: Now Penny-Pinchers Have Places to Spend Those Pennies

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See a penny, pick it up. All day long, you’ll be lucky enough to buy something with it at Staples. Or CVS or OfficeMax. These are among the stores hosting attention-grabbing penny sales—just 1¢ for things like highlighters, paper folders, batteries, spiral notebooks, and crayons—in the hopes of stirring up business in what is expected to be an awful back-to-school season for retailers.

For shoppers, however, it’s shaping up to be a season of remarkable bargains. From the LA Times:

Staples Inc. and OfficeMax Inc. have led the charge with penny promotions that change weekly. OfficeMax has sold highlighters, crayons, sharpeners, paper folders and spiral notebooks for 1 cent, while Staples has offered pencils, printer paper, lined filler paper and spiral notebooks.

The office-supply chain stores, which count back-to-school time as their biggest selling season, have latched on to penny promotions as drugstores and dollar stores expand onto their turf.

CVS Caremark Corp. stores, for example, have giant cardboard cutouts of scissors and staplers and thumbtacks hanging above the school supplies aisle touting “back-to-school savings.” Yellow cardboard bins are stuffed with an array of quirky and useful items for $1 each, including paper clips shaped like cows and packages of miniature highlighters.

Discounting seems to be the only surefire way for retailers to move merchandise. A report just came out revealing that stores such as Home Depot, Nordstrum, and Macy’s posted declines in second-quarter earnings, while Saks, J.C. Penney, and Abercrombie & Fitch reported losses. The exception? TJX, the company that owns discount chains including TJ Maxx and Marshalls, and which reported record sales and earnings.

As the NY Times reports:

Discounters continue to fare better than their midtier competitors as consumers trade down and buy only essentials. That trend, of course, has been especially troubling for luxury retailers… In an example of retailers’ new plans to get consumers shopping again, Saks is introducing a private label men’s clothing collection and expanding its Off Fifth outlet business.