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I came across a sentence in a recent NYT article.

In recent days, Page Six reported that the former CBS anchor Charlie Rose, accused by employees of acts ranging from groping to walking around naked in their presence, is shopping a return to television.

It appears that shop here means to plan, and the author is saying Charlie Rose is planning a return to television. But I can't find any dictionary evidence to back that up. Neither the ODO nor Merriam Webster's definitions of shop have such a meaning. Is this a correct usage?

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When shop is used transitively, the direct object can be

a) a place where something can be purchased, in which case it means "to visit a place intending to buy something sold there":

We shop that store regularly. It's never ever the same place twice.

We shop the local farmer's market on Saturday mornings for fresh produce.

or

b) a commodity, in which case it means "to present something as valuable with the intention of selling or trading it, or benefiting from a commercial transaction that involves it":

When his contract was up, the football player shopped himself to other teams.

The baseball team shopped their star outfielder, hoping to pick up an ace pitcher.

return is an odd object for transitive shop. It is like saying "The ace pitcher shopped a return to baseball two years after undergoing elbow surgery". It isn't quite right. The implication of this transitive use of the verb is that Charlie Rose is presenting himself to TV execs as a valuable commodity, which, if successful—if they "buy" that notion— would result in his return to TV.

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  • Max's answer is great and more upvoted, but I find this answer's explanation clearer.
    – Eddie Kal
    May 10, 2018 at 1:55
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Yes, it appears he's planning a return, but shop does not mean plan. This usage of shop is common. M-W has

shop
3 : to offer for consideration or acceptance; especially : to offer for sale or in a trade —often used with around
shopping the manuscript around

You could interpret the original as saying that he's pitching a return to television.

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  • I thought about that. I wasn't sure this was a fit for the usage of the word in the sentence because it doesn't appear necessary for him to offer his return for others' consideration. He is already making moves for a comeback.
    – Eddie Kal
    May 7, 2018 at 5:03
  • @L.Moneta He's not offering his return for consideration. He's offering a show which will be his return.
    – Em.
    May 7, 2018 at 5:26
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    +1. pitching is an excellent paraphrase.
    – TimR
    May 7, 2018 at 11:05
  • @Tᴚoɯɐuo in fact, that pitching made me(as a learner) even harder to understand. I would probably ask what pitching a return mean here. :(
    – dan
    May 8, 2018 at 0:33
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    @dan: Look up sales pitch (the noun) and to pitch a product or service (the verb) The original NYTimes article would have been clearer had it said is pitching instead of is shopping.
    – TimR
    May 10, 2018 at 10:30

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