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On Retail: Best Buy, Apple shelve some restocking fees

Home electronics retailers are quietly deep-sixing one of their more annoying pricing tactics.

Best Buy has stopped slapping a 15 percent restocking fee on goods returned without the original packaging intact. Apple last month followed suit on its iPhone.

Restocking fees, created by retailers in the late 1990s ostensibly to recoup product exchange costs that many electronic gadget makers refused to share, became a profit center.

Best Buy still charges a restocking fee on special orders. Apple levies a 10 percent restocking fee on nondefective goods returned within 14 days. But for iPhones, which can be returned within 30 days, there's now no fee. Local Apple Store clerks confirm they dropped it the day the Verizon Wireless iPhone deal was unveiled.

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You hear it all the time from people: "I can get it cheaper online."

Can they? It depends on what they're buying and often whether they include sales tax and shipping in the calculation — plus how much they value their time clipping coupons or chasing bargains from store to store.

The balance is shifting as more chains make prices the same in their stores, catalogs and online and as more shoppers are armed with Internet price comparison and clearance goods websites.

A StrategyOne survey of online shoppers found 52 percent claiming the "best deals" over the holidays were online, while 48 percent said they were in stores.

"That much division shows a lot of confusion about pricing," said Bradley Honan, senior vice president of the market research firm. "But perception is becoming reality."

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Brooks Brothers, that bastion of business dress, has signed a wholesale deal to sell its men's and kids apparel at Nordstrom.

Nordstrom.com and the Nordstrom at International Plaza in Tampa will be among 30 stores to stock the lines this summer.

Stodgy Brooks did the deal — its first fling at wholesale in 20 years — to find a younger audience. That's why the tailored suits, ties, shirts and sportswear Nordstrom ordered are a tighter-fit silhouette, not the baggy Brooks sack suit that has been a traditional business uniform for decades.

For that, old-school loyalists must visit Brooks Brothers — online, mail order or in the store at Old Hyde Park Village in Tampa.

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Some booze news: Dollar General and Walgreens have added beer and wine departments to elbow further into convenience store turf.

Walgreens, which a few months ago launched its own store brand Southern Point and David Stone wines, just added its own Big Flats 1901 beer.

Priced at $2.99 a six-pack and made by Genesee in upstate New York, it's a premium lager from the same supplier as Walgreens wines. That's a California vendor called Wine Exchange that handles store-brand beer and wine for Trader Joe's and Costco.

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

On Retail: Best Buy, Apple shelve some restocking fees 01/31/11 [Last modified: Monday, January 31, 2011 7:57pm]

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