Unstructured Finance

‘Cause they’ve got … high hopes

santa.jpgOkay, so their jobs really do depend on it, but two-thirds of the retail chief marketing officers surveyed by consulting firm BDO Seidman LLP think U.S. holiday sales will be higher this year.

The inaugural “Retail Compass” survey of 114 chief marketing officers at retailers with more than $100 million in annual revenues found that only two percent expected holiday sales to fall from a year earlier. Overall, the marketing execs, on average, expect a holiday sales increase of 7.8 percent, which is more ambitious than the 5 percent gain forecast by the National Retail Federation trade group.

Among the top 100 largest retailers, some 80 percent of marketing executives predicted higher holiday sales, with an average growth rate of 9.3 percent.

The survey, conducted in the last week of October, found that marketing executives’ biggest concern was energy costs, followed by rising interest rates and the slowing housing market:

Despite several forecasts to the contrary, the senior marketing leaders of US retailers have high hopes for the holidays, Douglas Hart, a partner in BDO Seidmans Retail and Consumer Products practice, said in a statement. However, given their concern about the impact of energy costs on consumer buying, a spike in oil and gas prices in the near term could adversely affect these lofty expectations.”

Move over Halloween

wii.jpgForget scary costumes and trick-or-treating. Hard core gamers have their eyes on November — when Nintendo’s Wii and Sony’s PlayStation 3 video game consoles will finally be released. The hunt is already on to figure out how one of the scarce consoles can be secured.

According to Yahoo Shopping, for the week of October 15 21, searches for the Wii increased by 150 percent, while PlayStation 3 showed an increase of 161 percent and appeared twice in the top 20 searches. 

But not everyone has video games on the mind. Some are thinking about Christmas, which is now less than two months away. Searches for Christmas ornaments on Yahoo Shopping increased by 121 percent, while searches for Christmas decorations increased by 107 compared with the week before.

Want fries with that $4 cholesterol-lowering drug?

Ever wonder how Wal-Mart shoppers are spending the money they save with cut-price $4 generic prescriptions? Apparently, some of thedrugs.jpgm are eating fast food.

When Wal-Mart announced that it was expanding its $4 drug program to an additional 12 states on Thursday, it shared this heart-warming anecdote:

“In Texas, when a woman was told that the prescriptions were $4 apiece, she became fearful that one of our associates was trying to be overly kind and help her pay for them. So she said that she could not accept the prescriptions because she did not want the cashier to be fired. When the pharmacist convinced her otherwise, she exclaimed — with tears in her eyes — that she was going out to celebrate by having a Whataburger(R) for supper,” said Bill Simon, executive vice president of Wal-Mart’s Professional Services Division. ”You see, she hadn’t been able to treat herself to this indulgence for nearly a year because she was on such a tight budget. We take great pride in knowing that this program is making a real difference in our customers’ lives.”

Bebe back on the runway

bebe4.jpg    Bebe Inc. showed its high-end collection line Wednesday night at Los Angeles Fashion Week, the second time the mall-based retailer has thrown a runway show in front of an enthusiastic crowd that included Mischa Barton, the former “O.C.” star who is the current face of the company.
    Besides the glitterati, also in attendance were financial analysts Christine Chen of Pacific Growth Equities and Brean Murray, Carret’s Eric Beder, who both praised the exclusively black and white line — most of which does not end up in stores — while disagreeing over the value of such a show.
    Chen, who says the shows are a good way of brand building due to the press they generate, saw some wearable flowy gowns that could have broad cross-over appeal at Bebe’s stores. She said that the company could further exploit the strength of the collection by including more of such pieces in stores, where typical garments include sexy, body-conscious looks aimed at women in their 20s and 30s.

    Demand for Bebe’s trendy fashions have been high in recent months. The company saw a 15-percent rise in same-store sales in September, with a 12-percent rise in August and 10-percent in July. Wall Street expects the Brisbane, California-based company to report earnings of 21 cents in the first fiscal quarter, excluding items, a 31 percent rise over adjusted earnings of 16 cents in the year-ago period. The company reports quarterly results Wednesday, Oct. 25.
    The collection included plunging necklines offset with ruffled collars, silk “bubble”-type dresses and flowy but short tiered skirts in luxurious fabrics like organza and silk satin.
    But other dresses with voluminous fabric at the hips were too theatrical, and best to be avoided in stores, Chen said.
    “These guys are smart enough to know that those are the pieces that people will have to special order,” Chen said.
    Beder agreed that many gowns on the runway were stunning.
    With such a runway show, he said, Bebe may attract the notice of high-end shoppers who might not realize that the company is making pricier designer wear.
    “For the woman who shops in Beverly Hills, it gives you a reason to go into the Bebe stores,” Beder said. “It might open up their eyes to Bebe.”
    Still, Beder said he sees little positive trickle-down effect at retail from the show.
    “It doesn’t give you a real feel of what you’re going to see in Bebe,” Beder said. “It’s really not a commercial venture.” 

     Bebe has been nominated for a Marketing Excellence Award at the L.A. Fashion Awards that close out fashion week Friday night.

What are you shopping for?

Apparently, a lot of you are still looking for Elmo.

Here are the top 25 search terms on Yahoo Shopping for October 8 through 14.  ipod tmx elmo elmo tmx shoes elmo books halloween costumes gps ipod nano tickle me elmo furniture cars cell phones psp pets tires xbox 360 mp3 toys Halloween laptop cell phone Coach costumes mp3 player


Let the hunt begin

thanksgivingshopping.jpg  Remember when Christmas shopping would start the day after Thanksgiving?

Those days are long gone. Wal-Mart already brought us closer to Black Friday by cutting prices on more than 100 games and toys.

“The holiday season is coming earlier this year than I’ve ever seen it. I would be willing to bet that it will come earlier next year,” said Darrell Rigby, head of the retail practice at Bain & Co.

“I was in Costco a month ago walking through holiday aisles,” Rigby said. ”The fact that Wal-Mart is out so quickly and so aggressively this year just says it was effective last year, so prepare for more of it.”

What would you bid for an Elmo?

elmo2.jpgThe hunt for T.M.X. Elmo is on, and it’s not a pretty one.

Since T.M.X. went on sale in September, the $40 furry red doll from Mattel has been flying off store shelves and winding up for resale at huge mark-ups on online.


At the moment, T.M.X. is out of stock online at Toys R Us, Wal-Mart and KB Toys. Target’s Web site says the doll is only available in stores–but good luck finding one there.

Amazon and EBay have an ample supply of the doll — for those willing to shell out the big bucks.

Brush-a, Brush-a, Brush-a

beyonce-knowles1.jpgThis couldn’t have been what Englishman William Addis had in mind when he invented the first toothbrush ever to be mass-produced back in 1780.

Back then, people often cleaned their teeth by dipping a rag in a salt solution or sulfur oil while rubbing back and forth. Or, in the case of a lot of people, they just did nothing with their teeth — until they fell out of their mouth and they had to clean them out of the wash basin.

Addis introduced a toothbrush which featured hairs from a cow’s tail attached to the animal’s pared down thighbone.

Shopping with couch potatoes

kart.jpgFor those harried parents seeking peace on earth — or at least in the grocery store — this holiday season, a New Zealand company called Cabco has just the thing. Shopping carts that show cartoons. A godsend for parents, or another step toward the destruction of U.S. civilization?

Here’s what Lori Borgman of McClatchy Newspapers had to say about it:

Children are now able to watch television from the comfort of home, in the car on the way to the grocery store, while at the grocery store, in the car on the way home from the grocery store, and once again when finally back at home. If you could rig a pulley from the refrigerator to the living room, the little darlings might never have reason to leave a sitting position.

So, what do you think? is this a useful distraction so parents can get their shopping done more quickly? Or another unnecessary intrustion of TV into children’s lives?

A billion-dollar scare

RosieIt began as a pagan festival celebrated by the Celts in Ireland and Britain and crossed the Atlantic Ocean with nearly 2 million Irish immigrants amid the Irish Potato Famine of 1845-1849.

No, it’s not the collective works of “The Irish Rovers“.

It’s sometimes associated with demons and the occult (OK, so that could qualify the Rovers). But today it’s a multi-billion dollar business.

From costumes and sweets, to creepy home decor and pet disguises, Americans are expected to spend up to $4.96 billion on Halloween-related merchandise this year, up from $3.29 billion a year ago, according to the National Retail Federation.