Unstructured Finance

Chicago Tribune treats Cyber Monday shoppers – in stores

The Chicago Tribune is giving the gift of a free issue to Cyber Monday shoppers.  Online, right?  Wrong.  This free newspaper (a 75 cent value) only applies to shoppers who actually venture out to stores today.

chicago-tribune-truckThe bankrupt newspaper appears to understand the discrepancy.  In a statement, the Tribune defines Cyber Monday as the online version of Black Friday, which is the day when millions of shoppers hit stores. 

Today, many of those shoppers are back in the office — and who knows, maybe they’re using their fast Internet connections to shop online.  At least, that’s why Cyber Monday grew in popularity a few years ago, when many people still had dial-up or even no Internet connections at home.

“Chicago Tribune is here this season to help you make the holidays memorable on a budget.  We hope this free copy highlighting the best deals will help so you can spend more time with friends and family and less wondering where to find bargains,” senior vice president of advertising Bob Fleck said in a statement.

It’s a bit of a strecth to say that the issue really highlights Cyber Monday.  Readers must flip to page seven for offers the paper suggests readers take advantage of (during their lunch break).  What can they choose from?  If someone is spending the day online, why not do it from the comfort of a new $139.97 Sweetheart Rocker chair from Classic Oak Designs?  If their eyes hurt from squinting to look at a small computer screen, they could upgrade to a 21.5 inch model from Staples, and save $60 or $70 — $60 according to Staples.com, $70 according to the paper.

Adelson splashes the pot in Asia

Sands China’s weak debut in Hong Kong - a first-day drop of 10 percent – was the fourth-worst launch on that market this year, but came as little shock to analysts who were betting against the Asian gambling play. Rival Wynn Macau is down 5 percent since listing in October.

Sands China’s $2.5 billion IPO wasn’t helped by the default tremors kicked off by Dubai, which has helped to expose a whole new area of risky bets in emerging markets.

“The fever for casino stocks is seen to be over now,” said Patrick Yiu, a director at CASH Asset Management. “Investors are worrying about the industry outlook, especially keen competition, when more casinos are ready for business.”

Check Out Line: It’s the most worrisome time of the year

macys-black-friday-2009Check out U.S. consumers spending less.

More shoppers flocked to stores over the Thanksgiving weekend (like these shoppers heading into Macy’s at 5 a.m. on Black Friday).  However, they spent a lot less per person than last year.

And, in what could be a bad sign for credit card companies, a large chunk of them paid with cold, hard cash.

Will shoppers spend more as the weeks until Christmas progress?  Or is this more frugal American shopper really the new normal that retailers have to plan for?

DealZone Daily

Pubs operator Mitchells & Butlers will ask Britain’s takeover watchdog to rule whether rebel shareholders are attempting to gain control of the group after they blocked the appointment of a chairman.

Piedmont, an investment vehicle owned by billionaire Joe Lewis that owns 23 percent of M&B, obstructed the appointment of an independent chairman and vetoed three candidates at the final stage despite being involved in the hiring process from its beginning.

In other M&A and corporate finance news reported by Reuters and other media:

Beijing Automotive Industry Holding Corp (BAIC) might still be interested in buying General Motors’ Saab unit, the Chinese car company’s general manager says. “I would just say, ‘stay tuned a little bit’,” he says.

Black Friday is a flat-screen TV

lcdAmericans were united this weekend in the hunt for cheap electronics. It looks like the biggest Black Friday deals out there were for flat-screen televisions at around $400 (remember when $1,000 was considered a discount?) and laptops under $500.
    
“Last year, Blu-ray players that were selling for probably $200 were selling for closer to $130 this year. Television sets that were selling for $599 last year were selling for $399 this year,” said Scott Krugman, a spokesman for the National Retail Federation.

Best Buy’s chief Brian Dunn also told us flat-screen TVs and netbooks were hot sellers, but added that that might not be enough to prevent a tough holiday overall.
    
Retailers used these discounts as a lure to get people into stores or browsing websites and entice them to purchase other stuff. But the U.S. consumer caught on to the strategy and just bought the TV and left. Or drove to another store if the TVs were sold out.
    
Shoppers also did their homework, maybe more so than in any previous year. Traffic to Amazon.com and Walmart.com rose 28 percent and 22 percent, respectively, on Black Friday, according to comScore. Traffic to Apple.com rose 39 percent.
    
Google Insights for Search says searches for the term “consumer electronics” tripled over Thanksgiving and Black Friday, while other favorite holiday categories like toys rose 50 percent.

Reuters photo

Black Friday: The Ecstasy and the Agony

black-friday-targetThe annual ritual began with all the proper signs. Shoppers lined up before midnight on Friday. Some wore pajamas, others imbibed hot coffee or alcohol. Store managers straightened rows of sweaters and blew dust mites off flat-screen TVs while their doors remained closed. 
    
Then the rush started.
There were fights over toy hamsters, a clamor for laptops under $500 and even a leather jacket or two was purchased. Retailers prayed and tried to banish the ghosts of a terrible 2008.

Traffic was strong. Americans left malls with more shopping bags in their hands than a year ago. And yet.

ShopperTrak told us today that sales were only up 0.5 percent on Black Friday. In 2008, when the banking system seemed on the verge of collapse and global recession loomed, sales rose 3 percent on Black Friday.
    
We know it is still early in the season. We remember from last year that it is very hard to call the holiday season. But we can’t help but wonder, what happened?

Black Friday: That time when retail CEOs don’t shop

best-buyHow important is it for top executives to know what their customers think of the businesses that they run? Most agree that it helps, but on Black Friday, chief executives of two of the country’s most popular venues for frenzied, over-caffeinated shoppers said they don’t shop at their stores at that time of year.

We could think of plenty of good reasons not to hit the chaos scenes known as big-box retailers on Black Friday. For one thing, it’s crowded and you have to wait in line all day while you’re holding boxes of stuff. Add a couple of cranky toddlers, and you could envision hundreds of reasons to stay home.

The CEOs of Best Buy and Toys “R” Us have different explanations.

“This is my 25th year in a row I am working on Black Friday… so I don’t get the chance to shop,” Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn told Reuters in an interview. “I work it, they shop.”

Black Friday: Chase pursues a (very) direct marketing plan

chased

You can spend millions of dollars on an advertising campaign if you have something to sell. Alternately, you can try some cheaper experiments and hope that downmarket charm trumps slickness.

Somebody liked the latter idea at the Chase bank branch on Seventh Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan, as this picture, taken by one of our editors, Leslie Gevirtz, shows.

We can’t decide if this is a Black Friday coup of marketing genius or if one of the tellers was forced to use only materials in the branch’s broom closet. After all, this is the heart of Times Square, a place where every square millimeter is available for your ad, and at very high prices. Major corporations rarely spare expenses — or electricity — in presenting their best advertising campaigns in the heart of the U.S. financial capital. On the other hand, Chase *is* handing out $100 to everyone who starts an account. Maybe that’s the ad budget, already spent.

Black Friday: Tourists rescue New York

times-squareThough many New Yorkers complain that tourists are underfoot and in their way, retailers across the city see them, and their strong euros, pounds and Canadian dollars, as a blessing.

Tourists helped Saks Fifth Avenue’s flagship store last quarter perform in line with the chain’s other stores, and Macy’s CEO Terry Lundgren told Reuters on Friday that lately he was hearing more languages besides English than ever on the store floor.

Judging by some of the shoppers Reuters interviewed this week, visitors from abroad plan to spend plenty in New York:

Black Friday: First Blood Part II

hamstersWe were wondering earlier today how much longer it would take until customers shopping for Black Friday deals got rowdy. We told you about one shoving match in Centennial, Colorado, that involved dropping a little old lady. Now we have a “disturbance” at a Walmart store in Upland, California, near Rancho Cucamonga in Southern California’s Inland Empire. What motivates some of these attacks? Toy hamsters! (See our earlier entry on this phenomenon. Also, look toward the bottom of this blog entry.)

The San Bernardino Sun reported details:

“Upland police officers received reports of the disturbance about 2:45 a.m. Friday and sent about four officers to the store at 1540 W. Foothill Boulevard, Lt. Jim Etchason said. ‘A manager at the store called it in to the police department,’ Etchason said. ‘(The manager) said numerous customers were causing a disturbance with each other.’”

The cops told managers to close the store while they cleared out shoppers and made them wait in the parking lot. A few hours later, they were allowed to go back inside, the Sun reported. There were no reports of injuries or damage, the paper said on its website.

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