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Voting with your dollar just got a little bit easier.
Smartphone apps that push consumers to buy only from retailers that share a consumer’s personal beliefs about social and political issues are popping up in the app store.
The recession has made the luxury customer even more demanding, said Steve Sadove, chairman and chief executive of Saks.
Acording to Sadove, luxury customers continue to love their favorite brands, but want them at lower prices, or at least want to understand why the product commands the price it does.
Saks has been adapting to the current environment by focusing more closely on customer service and enhancing the experience of shopping at its stores. This has included hosting events where shoppers can meet designers.
"The reality is people love luxury, they love brands, they love shopping...what has changed is their understanding," Sadove said during a panel discussing the state of the luxury segment at the National Retail Federation's annual convention.
Sadove also discussed the need for more product innovation.
"In the end, it's the products people are buying," Sadove said.
Sadove also highlighted the role of cause marketing. Saks partners with a number of charities, including St. Jude's Children's Hospital.
He said luxury customers like to "give back."
One of Sadove's co-panelists, designer and retailer Tory Burch, also sells products to raise money for a charitable foundation.
Burch talked about the need to develop relationships with consumers, which she does through Twitter, through the company's Web site and by personal appearances in her stores.
The challenge for luxury brands is to be accessible, while retaining a brand's mystique, Burch said.
That's a difficult task, especially when Burch is sharing events from her daily life on Twitter.
A recent Tweet just yielded a loud, emotional outcry among her followers and will eventually lead to a new product.
Burch sent out a Tweet that said how "grossed out" she was that she was standing barefoot in airport security. Her followers agreed this was one of the ickier parts of traveling.
Burch's response was to develop a new product: the travel sock.
This anecodote backs the old adage that companies don't own brands, customers do, according to Mark Gobe, president of Emotional Branding.
Gobe said this has only become more true in the age social media.
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How to get jobs growing again is an issue that is front and center on the minds of retailers, according to panelist speaking at the National Retail Federation's annual convention.
Allen Questrom, former CEO of JC Penney and a member of Wal-Mart Stores' board, said the answer to the economy's troubles is: "jobs, jobs, and more jobs."
Howard Levine, chairman and CEO of Family Dollar , also stressed the need for more job creation.
"I think this economy is still very fragile...I don't think this system can sustain another shock," Levine said.
According to Moody's Economy.com Chief Economist Mark Zandi, the retail industry has been helped by job growth that sprang from the government's stimulus programs.
Zandi remains optimistic about the potential for further growth, but agrees businesses must step up and begin hiring again.
"The economy is measurably better today than it was a year ago and it will be measurably better a year from now than it is today," Zandi said.
Retailers have also been weathering the worst recession in decades, in part by keeping a careful eye on inventories.
There's a case to be made that consumers will continue to defy the 10 percent unemploymentrate and stoke a recovery in the retail sector.
Online spending increased substantially this holiday, even though it's still a small player in the overall scheme of retail. Still, most economic experts say America has too many stores , and 2010 will see more shrinkage in the brick and mortar world.
It's already happening.
As investors look for the retail sector to rebound in 2010, Jeff Klinefelter and Mitchell Kaiser, senior retail analysts at Piper Jaffray, shared their picks and pans for the New Year.
Online retailer eBay saw purchases made from mobile apps soar this holiday season, with three-times as many items purchased via mobile device than a year ago.
People can't seem to get enough of skateboarding dogs or cats that play the piano, and American Apparel is capitalizing on the fascination.
Last Christmas consumers were cutting back and hoarding cash, leaving retailers out cold.
But this holiday that stockpile of savings might just be a saving grace for retailers in America's largest mall, Maureen Bausch, Mall of America's executive vice president, told CNBC Thursday.
"We knew eventually they'd splurge, and I think they saved up all their money and they're spending it this Christmas, and I think it might just save us this holiday season," said Bausch. "They are buying thoughtfully, but they are buying."
Bausch said she expects to see sales up 2.5 percent from a year ago and has seen a 27 percent increase in traffic over the last few weeks.
Christina Cheddar Berk is editor of CNBC.com's Consumer Nation and chief trend spotter.
Courtney is a retail reporter for CNBC.
Tom is a Senior Editor and Assignment Desk Manager for CNBC TV. He also writes about the business of beer for CNBC.com.
Stephanie Landsman is one of the producers of "Fast Money."
Coordinating Producer, Squawk on the Street & Squawk Alley
Though Sears has now posted nine straight quarters of losses, CNBC's Jim Cramer has an idea on how to turn things around.
Family Dollar Stores said on Thursday its board unanimously rejected Dollar General's buyout offer due to antitrust considerations.
Dollar Tree reported a 2.6 percent fall in quarterly profit as costs increased.