Retailers Cash in on $150 Billion Tax Rebate Bonanza


Roughly $150 billion dollars will be distributed to American consumers over the next couple of weeks, as part of the government's initiative to boost the economy. As consumers make plans to cash their stimulus checks, retailers also are making plans to cash in. Here's a look at who's doing what to capture the biggest share of these disposable income checks.

The National Retail Federation conducted a survey of nearly 8,000 consumers that found that 40.6 percent of respondents are allocating their rebates to "purchasing something they would not have otherwise purchased without the help of the rebate check." NRF estimates this translates into $43 billion of unplanned, incremental spending due to the Act, and only $20 billion will be saved. The first round of checks (mailed out on May 2, 2008) have led retailers to believe and anxiously anticipate an upturn in consumer spending.

RSR Research, along with Manhattan Associates, conducted an online survey of 95 retailers and found that 35 percent plan to capture consumer spending from the stimulus plan. According to the survey, big box retailers plan to do the most, with 78 percent of big box specialty retailers planning to take advantage of the additional consumer spending and 55 percent of general merchandise and apparel retailers.

Here is what a selected list of retailers are doing to jump on the rebate-promo bandwagon:

Giant Food:  Shoppers can get a 10-percent-off coupon for their next purchase when they spend $200 or more in one visit.

Kroger:  Customers can receive free groceries through a gift card program available exclusively in Kroger stores. Paper stimulus checks are eligible, along with taxpayer's IRS tax refund check.

Lowe's: The retailer will cash customers' checks and is offering $10 "project starter cards" to shoppers who spend $50, or $25 cards to those who spend $250.

RadioShack: Customers who use their stimulus or IRS refund checks in amounts up to $2,500 as a form of payment between May 4 and July 12 and make a minimum qualifying purchase of $50, will receive a 10 percent discount.

Raley's: The CA-based grocery chain will convert the paper checks into gift cards and add 10 percent more to the value.

Safeway: The grocer will give bonus card holders a 10-percent-off coupon to use within the next two days.

Sears/Kmart: Customers present paper checks at the cash register. Checks are then converted into a gift card at the full value of the check.

Sony: The retailer is offering $400 discounts on certain HD-TVs.

Spartan Stores: Customers can receive a 10 percent bonus on groceries or gasoline at Quick Stop Fuel and Convenience Centers through a store gift card program when they cash their paper checks or show their proof of a rebate in a bank through direct deposit.

Staples: Promotions are being given to small businesses, such as no interest or payments for six months on certain purchases, or 10 percent off other purchases.

Wal-Mart: The retailer will cash paper checks for free, with no purchase required. It will also waive the purchase fee on its Wal-Mart MoneyCard, its prepaid debit card, if consumers load them with any portion of their rebate funds.

-Christina Zarrello

This ad will auto-close in 10 seconds