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  Tuesday, 6 Aug 2013 | 1:04 PM ET

Taco Bell aims to go wide with waffle taco

Taco Bell's waffle taco
Photo: Taco Bell
Taco Bell's waffle taco

Taco Bell says it's expanding its small test of waffle tacos, as it prepares to take its breakfast menu national sometime next year.

The fast-food chain says the waffle taco, which includes scrambled eggs, sausage and a side of syrup, was the top seller during breakfast hours at the five Southern California restaurants where they were tested earlier this year.

Now the company wants to see how it would fare on a bigger scale; the waffle tacos and a full breakfast menu will be expanded to about 100 restaurants in Fresno, Calif., Omaha, Neb., and Chattanooga, Tenn., starting Thursday.

(Read More: Yum or Yuck? Cutting-Edge Restaurant Menu Items)

Brian Niccol, president of Taco Bell, said the idea is partly to get a better sense of how well restaurants will be able to handle the added operational pressure from the waffle tacos.

"You only get one shot when you go with big items," he said.

»Read more
  Tuesday, 6 Aug 2013 | 11:18 AM ET

Teen angst: Sales forecast sparks broader concern

Posted By: Katie Little
KidStock | Getty Images

Wall Street braced for a possible ricochet effect on retailers after American Eagle Outfitters slashed its guidance and teen retail stocks plunged.

"You have to think the magnitude of the American Eagle miss, which was larger than even we expected, could be a canary in the teen coal mine," wrote BMO analysts in a note to investors.

Of particular concern to Lazard Capital Markets analysts is the decline in overall mall traffic, which the retailer said led to more promotions and markdowns to get rid of inventory. This trend of fewer shoppers at the mall could hit retailers more broadly, analysts said.

Lazard analysts speculated that they "believe the second-quarter sales miss and margin pressure is not unique to American Eagle."

(Read more: Lingerie for the 1 percent: 24-karat intimates)

"We believe sales slowed meaningfully in July (after a weaker-than-anticipated June) for most apparel and accessories retailers," Lazard said.

Challenging environment: CEO

Citing weaker-than expected sales and margins, American Eagle said on Monday that its total net revenue and same-store sales both dropped. In a release, American Eagle CEO Robert Hanson said the retail environment remains challenging.

(Read more: TJ Maxx, Saks' outlets unveil online stores)

"We are not at all happy with our second-quarter results, which were impacted primarily by a disappointing performance of our American Eagle women's assortment and weak traffic," he added. "Results were exacerbated by a highly promotional retail environment, which intensified over the course of July. Within this context, we increased the depth and breadth of markdowns; these actions have enabled us to achieve a clean inventory position moving into the third quarter."

On Tuesday, American Eagle shares plunged 16 percent while the stocks of competitors Abercrombie & Fitch and Aeropostale both fell 6 percent. Urban Outfitters shares were also down nearly 5 percent.

Retail 'red flag'

Brian Sozzi, chief equities strategist at Belus Capital Advisors, described American Eagle's warning as a "cause for concern" amid the market's dominant bullish theme.

"When something doesn't quite fit well with a dominant theme in the stock market, it's in your best interest to throw a mental red flag onto the field," he said.

Sozzi added that the negative sales growth trends teen retailers have compiled is of importance.

"This tells me all is not fine and dandy with the U.S. consumer and is a source of worry entering back-to-school and yes, the holiday shopping season," he added.

—By CNBC.com's Katie Little. Follow her on Twitter @KatieLittle.

»Read more
  Monday, 5 Aug 2013 | 8:49 AM ET

Defying other indicators, consumer spending stalls

Shoppers walk down 5th Avenue in New York City.
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Shoppers walk down 5th Avenue in New York City.

U.S. consumer spending has remained largely flat for the last three months, Gallup reported on Monday, despite other indicators that suggest consumers keep spending at a brisk clip.

The polling agency found that "self-reported" daily consumer spending was $89 in July, unchanged from the $90 of June and May. Based on a series of tracking interviews with more than 14,000 Americans during July, Gallup said that flat spending was perceptible across income levels.

»Read more
  Sunday, 4 Aug 2013 | 9:28 PM ET

Hail to the beef: Americana on the rise in London

Posted By: Kiran Moodley
A freshly prepared cheeseburger sits on a kitchen counter at the first U.K. outlet of U.S. burger restaurant chain Five Guys in London, U.K.
Bloomberg | Getty Images
A freshly prepared cheeseburger sits on a kitchen counter at the first U.K. outlet of U.S. burger restaurant chain Five Guys in London, U.K.

A few years ago, an American visiting London would have been hard-pressed to find a quality hamburger with a decent U.S. craft beer to accompany it. Now,anyone can enjoy a Five Guys or Shake Shack burger in town, and then head to a pub serving Brooklyn Lager, in a sign the British capital is looking state-side for culinary inspiration.

Sandia Chang, the American founder of Bubbledogs, a hot dog and champagne bar/restaurant in central London, said it is not just that London is becoming more American - it's that the city's food and drinking culture is improving.

(Read More: Casual meets classy? London dishes up hot dogs…with champagne)

"Four or five years ago, when I first came to England, it was still either a sit-down restaurant with table cloths or a dirty kebab shop on the corner," Chang told CNBC. "The middle market was missing. There was nowhere where you could just pop up at the bar and move onto somewhere else."

But things are starting to change. Over the past few years, London has seen a boom in U.S.-inspired higher-end fast-food restaurants, with chains like Honest Burger and Byron opening a number of stores. Chang opened her London restaurant last year, and American fine burger chains Shake Shack and Five Guys opened their first U.K. stores in the capital earlier this month.

The British are slowly becoming less traditional when it comes to dining out,according to Chang. Rather than making a big deal of it, younger Brits are easy to just pop into her restaurant, have a quick bite to eat, and then head on out.

John Eckbert, director of operations for Five Guys U.K., agreed that things have improved. "When I lived here 25 years ago, the food wasn't great, it wasn't well tended to and the customer service interface was pretty rough," he told CNBC.

(Read More: Bun Fight: US Burger Chains Do Battle in London)

He said the Americanization of London's food scene is just part of today's globalism, pointing out that Pret A Manger, a U.K. sandwich chain, and Nando's, a South African chicken-specialist, have both become big in the U.S. in recent years.

»Read more
  Saturday, 3 Aug 2013 | 3:00 PM ET

Younger drinkers tire of the taste of light beer

Posted By: Tom Rotunno
Egor Mopanko | E+ | Getty Images

These are heavy days for light beer makers.

Bad spring weather and a sluggish economy have been cited by brewers such as Anheuser-Busch and MillerCoors as reasons for the recent poor sales of some of their flagship light beer brands. But a couple of new surveys might give greater cause for concern: consumers may just be growing tired of the taste of light beer and moving on to wine or spirits.

According to a survey by Consumer Edge Insight, beer consumers appear to be shifting away from the premium light segment. That's more bad news for the beer industry, given the dominance of light beer in the marketplace. The top two best-selling beer brands, Bud Light and Coors Light, together have about a 27 percent share of the market.

The main reason for the shift? Twenty-seven percent of the respondents said: they are "getting tired of the taste."

Ouch.

»Read more
  Thursday, 1 Aug 2013 | 1:09 PM ET

Busting the myth of the back-to-school tax holiday

Posted By: Courtney Reagan
Juanmonino | E+ | Getty Images

While new sneakers and fresh crayons may ease the pain a little for students dreading the first day of school, mom and dad usually find little relief from those back-to-school bills.

The one exception may be the sales tax holidays that will be offered in at least 17 states this year. These events, 12 of which are happening this weekend, make school purchases a little less expensive.

Although many argue sales tax holidays benefit retailers, states and consumers, several data-heavy studies conclude otherwise.

"The hope is on the part of states that if consumers spend more on back-to-school items than otherwise because of tax cuts, this benefits the broader economy and leads to additional tax revenues elsewhere," said John Lonski, chief economist at Moody's Capital Research Group.

»Read more
  Thursday, 1 Aug 2013 | 12:06 PM ET

'O, Canada' becomes retail's new growth anthem

Posted By: Katie Little
Alex Slobodkin | E+ | Getty Images

Always looking to increase sales, more retailers are turning their attention north—to less skittish Canadian consumers who don't have as many shopping choices.

Candace Corlett, president of WSL Strategic Retail, sees Canada as a way for retailers to squeak out more growth in a tough environment.

"In this retail economy, anywhere you can get growth, you go," she said. "Every sliver counts. Ten years ago, there was a business mindset that said that Canada was small and perhaps not worth the investment."

Both luxury goods retailers as well as discounters, including Target and Wal-Mart, are among those planning to step up their presence in the country, whose increasing urbanization makes it a more lucrative target.

(Read more: How to evaluate retailer stocks: Pro)

That was underscored this week when Canadian retailer Hudson's Bay announced plans to buy luxury retailer Saks for $2.4 billion, a move aimed at beefing up its presence in both Canada and the United States. Hudson's Bay CEO said Saks' expansion into Canada could occur quickly, with up to seven department stores and 25 Off Fifth outlets.

"For North American retailers, it's easier to look over the fence at their neighbor versus looking across the pond for growth," said Carman Allison, Nielsen's director of shopper and industry insights. "With Canadians being exposed to media and advertising, brand awareness already exists for a number of key retailers and brands before they even enter the new market."

»Read more
  Monday, 29 Jul 2013 | 12:22 PM ET

Brewery toasts 125 years with a gift for drinkers

Posted By: Tom Rotunno
Source: F.X. Matt Brewing Co.

Think of it as a baker's dozen, craft-brewing style.

F.X. Matt Brewing, the eighth-largest craft brewer in the United States, is celebrating its 125th anniversary by giving customers a gift that beer drinkers can often only dream about: free beer.

The brewery, now in its fourth generation of family ownership, is giving consumers 13 beers for the price of 12, adding a can of its new Legacy IPA into variety packs of the Saranac brand.

"As a family, the legacy that we have is beer. We've passed it down from generation to generation," said Fred Matt, president and chief operating officer. "So we thought, let's share this gift as a kind of thank you to all those loyal customers who've helped us get to 125 years."

Given its ability to survive decade after decade, F.X. Matt has a unique perspective on the current craft beer boom. According to the latest figures, more than 2,500 breweries are in operation, with 1,000 more planned.

»Read more
  Sunday, 28 Jul 2013 | 3:00 PM ET

What's the dealio? '90s fashions are back

Posted By: Katie Little
Source: American Apparel

Break out your jelly sandals and overall shorts: 1990s fashion has staged a comeback, prompting U.S. retailers to respond with fresh inventory of the decade's hottest looks.

At online retailer eBay, interest in '90s-related items has surged. Between July 2011 and June 2013, searches for crop tops rose 119 percent, while use of the phrase "acid wash jeans" was up 39 percent.

"The decade was front-loaded with lots of edgy silhouettes, bright accents and zany looks, all of which are feeling fresh again," said Heidi Ware, eBay's head of fashion editorial and creative.

»Read more
  Friday, 26 Jul 2013 | 12:05 PM ET

Watch: China-EU clash over wine just 'political posturing'

China-EU clash over wine just 'political posturing'
Tom Gearing, former Apprentice runner-up and co-director of Cult Wines, tells CNBC that threats by China to impose tariffs on European wine exports has not effected the industry.


»Read more

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