Gains Fans

Off-price apparel retailer Ross Stores is one outfit that's gotten a lot of mileage out of touting bargain prices, in good times and bad. Ross sells in-season name-brand and designer clothes, accessories and footwear for the family at everyday discounts of 20 percent to 60 percent off department store and specialty-store prices. It's the nation's No. 2 off-price retailer behind TJX Cos. The company's profit has climbed at double-digit rates in seven of the past eight quarters.

In five short months, Staples has turned its Twitter account into a marketing insights and sales engine. Perhaps more importantly, the office supplies retailer has quickly learned the social site's benefits for customer relations. The brand has grown its follower base to 32,200 and increased its Twitter reps from a handful to 20. To encourage people to follow the Framingham, Mass.-based retailer, it's employed giveaway promotions for new-to-market technology products like netbooks. Consumers have typically had to follow the company to enter the contests.

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