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Credit card issuers hiking fees to retailers

OXO’s new one-hole punch is supposed to reduce fatigue.

OXO’s new one-hole punch is supposed to reduce fatigue.

Credit card issuers are jacking up fees for more than shoppers this spring. Retailers are groaning about another round of increases on their side of each card transaction, too.

The fees bump a retailer's cost of a $100 Visa Preferred card transaction, for instance, by a nickel to $2.05 or by 9 percent to $3.05 for a Visa Signature card.

Such small change in so-called interchange fees adds up fast and boosts consumer prices for everything. Yearly card issuer income from retailers tripled to $48 billion since 2001, according to the Merchants Payments Coalition. It's the reason many gas stations charge extra for credit cards.

"It's been just a continuing series of increases," said Bill Greer, a spokesman for the Food Marketing Institute, a supermarket trade group pressing Congress and the Obama administration to include relief in a pending overhaul of federal credit card rules.

Card issuers say retailers just don't want to shoulder the burden of modern card systems and wouldn't necessarily pass the savings on to consumers.

Retailers counter that the biggest fee increases pay for cards with rewards points and that consumers would prefer relief in cash, not points.

• • •

After re-engineering every imaginable kitchen gadget with oversized Good Grips, OXO is moving to office tools that have not changed in decades.

In an exclusive line that debuts in May at Staples, OXO designers built an elegantly simple staple remover with no moving parts, a pair of scissors that with the push of a button doubles as a safer box cutter, and magnetized container lids for hard-to-grasp paper clips and push pins. A new one-hole punch, pictured above, looks like a torture device but is touted to reduce fatigue for full-time paper punchers.

"It's a big launch, 36 new products, with more coming," said Phil Barry, global brand manager for Staples Inc.

• • •

Taking a cue from the "I'm not dead yet" guy in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, some old retail brands continue to cling to life.

That's the latest trend from liquidators who, after closing down defunct chains, buy the name in hopes there's value to wring.

Hilco Consumer Capital and Gordon Bros. jointly revived several brands they otherwise put to rest in going out-of-business sales. Now they are distributing Sharper Image brand household appliances, running a Linens n' Things retail Web site called lnt.com and weighing what to do with the Bombay Co. Last week they won bidding for Polaroid.

Systemax Inc., a computermaker that last year brought CompUSA back from the dead, has a $6.5 million bid pending for the Circuit City name.

Makes you wonder what's going to happen to retail names the financial Web site 24/7 Wall Street (247wallstreet.com) forecasts will not be in business after 2010: Borders, Old Navy, Crocs and Eddie Bauer.

• • •

Another sign of how tough the retail real estate business is:

At 20,000 attendees, registration for the International Council of Shopping Centers annual leasing mall in Las Vegas is about half what it usually is. The May 17 through 20 dealmaking fete — where virtually every big shopping center lease in the country is hatched, negotiated or closed— will have 1,000 exhibit booths, about 300 fewer than last year.

Conspicuously absent: exhibition booths the size of a drugstore for two of the biggest malls operators — Simon Property Group and Westfield Group — which own five malls between them in the Tampa Bay area.

Both will send the same delegation of dealmakers, but each will save $500,000 by working from cheaper space in hotels.

Times staff writer Mark Albright can be reached at albright@sptimes.com or (727)-893-8252.

Credit card issuers hiking fees to retailers 04/20/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 21, 2009 11:33am]
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