Circuit City launches ‘firedog Across America’

Circuit City is inviting Americans to nominate their local firefighters for outstanding service as part of a national online essay contest.

A recent study by the U.S. Fire Administration, a division of the Department of Homeland Security, reveals that many firehouses across the United States lack adequate funding for some of the most essential firefighting tools.

The retailer is awarding $550,000 to help fire departments purchase communications equipment, protective gear and to pay for training.

The full needs assessment is available at

“With more than 1.1 million firefighters working in the United States, chances are that most Americans have benefited in some way from the dedicated services of their local firehouse,” said Peter Weedfald, senior vice president and chief marketing officer for Circuit City. “By sharing their experiences with these everyday heroes through the ‘firedog Across America’ essay contest, Circuit City will ensure that 10 fire stations receive the additional funds they need to continue serving and protecting their communities.”

Through March 31, Americans are invited to submit esssays at that describe how their local firehouse or firefighters went above and beyond in helping them or their community.

On April 28, 10 winning essays will be announced. Each of the 10 finalist firehouses will receive $20,000. The authors of each winning essay will receive a home “techover” valued at $10,000.

From April 28 through May 13, the public will have a chance to vote at for one story among the 10 finalists that most inspires them. For each vote received, Circuit City will make a matching donation up to $250,000, to be distributed proportionally among the finalists based on the number of votes cast.

On May 14, the firehouse with the most votes will be awarded $100,000.

SmartReply launches CRM loyalty messaging platform

SmartReply has launched the industry’s first CRM (customer relationship management) loyalty messaging platform that integrates voice, mobile and e-mail channels.

The system also enables SmartReply clients to give their customers a preferred choice medium through which they receive marketing messages.

SmartReply is the provider of voice and mobile messaging for more than 80 national and regional retailers in North America.

With SmartReply’s CRM platform, consumers can choose to receive marketing messages or promotions from the brands they are loyal to, and they can select their preferred channel of communication, whether it is voice messages, e-mail or text messaging — or any combination of the three.

Resilient shoppers get 2007 off to good start

Consumers put their gift cards to good use in January, snapping up discounted winter apparel and new spring merchandise.

According to the National Retail Federation, retail industry sales for January (which exclude automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) rose 5.3 percent unadjusted compared to last year and 0.7 percent seasonally adjusted from December.

January retail sales released by the U.S. Commerce Department show that total retail sales (which include non-general merchandise categories such as automobiles, gas stations and restaurants) were unchanged from December and increased 4.3 percent unadjusted year-over-year.

December industry sales were revised upward, from 0.9 percent unadjusted to 1.2 percent unadjusted compared to the previous year.

“Shoppers hit the stores in January to redeem holiday gift cards from a wide variety of retailers,” said NRF Chief Economist Rosalind Wells. “Though January is historically the slowest sales month for retailers, gift cards are changing the game by bringing a much-needed boost to stores.”

Clothing and clothing accessories stores saw an increase of 6 percent unadjusted compared to last year and 1 percent increase adjusted from December. Health and personal care stores, which showed the strongest year-over-year gains, increased 10.4 percent unadjusted and 0.6 percent adjusted month-to-month.

Electronics and appliance stores are still experiencing sales increases, largely because of the popularity of such items as high definition televisions, video game systems and MP3 players.

Unadjusted year-over-year sales in electronics and appliance stores increased 5.1 percent and decreased slightly, 1.2 percent, from a month earlier.

NRF continues to expect 2007 sales to increase 4.8 percent compared to 2006.

Hanson expanding during hot tub downturn

Hanson Spa and Home Center has opened a second location, on the northeast corner of Dublin and Academy boulevards, increasing its retail space by 50 percent.

Although the number of hot tubs sold nationally decreased by 25 percent in 2006, Andy Ruck, owner, said his store has run out of retail space.

The new location is about 5,000 square feet. With more than 10,000 customers, Hanson Spa and Home Center has been servicing Colorado since 1986.

Joan Johnson covers retail for the Colorado Springs Business Journal.