Unstructured Finance

Starbucks: Decaf Via coming soon

starbucks20via20ready20brewStarbucks says it will start selling a decaf version of its Via instant coffee in the United States on Nov 17.

The coffee chain, which in the middle of a corporate turnaround, hopes that Via will help it grab a big piece the $21 billion instant coffee market from established players like Nestle’s Nescafe and Kraft Foods Inc’s Sanka.

Borrowing from the old Pepsi vs. Coke taste challenges, Starbucks baristas for four days invited customers to do side-by-side comparisons of Via and its regular brew.

Starbucks says early indicators show that Via is exceeding expectations with regard to sales and customer and employee response.

How did Via fare versus your own expectations?


Liz picks Penney; Isaac takes TV

mizrahiJC Penney stores in the United States and Puerto Rico are going exclusive with Liz Claiborne Inc’s namesake brand and celebrity designer Isaac Mizrahi will sell his upscale Liz Claiborne New York line only on QVC, a TV shopping network.

The moves from Liz Claiborne were seen by some as a downward shift to mass-market retail channels and came as department store orders for Liz Claiborne’s products have fallen during what has become the longest recession since the Great Depression.

Analysts said the JC Penney deal is more lucrative for Liz Claiborne and signals the end of a decades-long relationship between Liz’s main brand and the Macy’s department store chain – which didn’t exactly go quietly.

A brighter view doesn’t lead to increased spending

paying-billAmericans may have become more confident in the economy but they haven’t started spending heavily again — and that could be bad new for retailers this holiday season.

Discover’s U.S. Spending Monitor for September rose for the second straight month, climbing 2 points to 89 (based out of 100).  Thirty-three percent of respondents said they felt economic conditions were improving, a Monitor high and a 2-point rise from August.

When asked to rate their own financial fitness, 33 percent rated it as good or excellent, up a point from August and the highest percentage in four months. On the flipside, 48 percent said their finances were getting worse, also up a point from the previous month.

Check Out Line: A glimmer of holiday optimism

USA/Check Out this slightly more optimistic holiday sales forecast.

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) said the 2009 U.S. holiday season is likely to be “a lot better” than last year, with sales rising roughly 1 to 2 percent.

The forecast, perhaps the most bullish yet, comes after a dismal 2008 holiday season that by some accounts was the worst in about 40 years.

Forecasts issued so far this year call for holiday sales to be flat to down versus last year, but some of those surveys use different methods for estimating sales.

J.C. Penney discounts go mobile

jcpenneyJ.C. Penney discounts are going mobile as the department store takes aim at younger, tech-savvy shoppers.

Just in time for the crucial holiday shopping season, the company is testing a discount program from Cellfire that will allow Penney’s Houston-area shoppers to use their cell phones to download coupons that can be presented at checkout for savings.

The move comes as Penney gears up for the holiday shopping season — a crucial sales period for department stores and other retailers.

Check Out Line: Crowd at top of Aerospostale

aeropostale1Check out who’s in charge at Aeropostale
No, seriously, who is in charge?
The company announced today that Julian Geiger was leaving the teen apparel retailer. (The press release was apparently written under the auspices of the Lawyers Full Employment Act.)
But instead of appointing one leader, Aeropostale went with co-CEOs. President and Chief Merchandising Officer Mindy Meads and Chief Operating Officer Thomas Johnson were named to share the top spot.
The news release does not detail how Meads and Johnson will divide the CEO duties.
What we do know is that the history of corporate America is punctuated with co-CEO arrangements that have gone awry.
When Kraft was spun out from Altria in 2001, Roger Deromedi and Betsy Holden were named co-CEOs. The relationship ended with Holden being demoted in late 2003, and eventually leaving the company. Kraft continued to struggle with lackluster innovation and seemingly ever-present restructuring, and Deromedi was out by 2006.
John Reed and Sanford Weill ran Citigroup together for a while before falling out. Reed even left the corporate world for a time.
A deep executive bench is always a plus, but in the end, one person at the top seems to be the final answer.
Also in the basket:
Rite Aid cuts view after latest loss; shares skid
H&M August sales disappoint as shoppers hunt for bargains
Buffett sings praises of a Chinese suit (WSJ)


Carl’s Jr CEO sees gold in Lone Star state

texas1Andy Puzder, chief executive of Carl’s Jr and Hardee’s parent CKE Restaurants, is not a man to mince words and on Thursday he shared his views on “socialist type” state governments in California and Oregon. 
Many of the company’s Carl’s Jr restaurants are located in the Golden State, and Puzder has plans to lessen that exposure over time. 

“As such, we’re targeting a large percentage of our growth in Texas. It is deemed to be more business friendly,” Puzder told analysts on a conference call. 
“Oregon has a higher minimum wage and a similar regulatory structure as California and also has a similar socialist type government at the state level so business there actually can be as bad or worse than California,” he said. 
“Texas is doing really well,” he added.


Thrifty tips from Starbucks

barista1In its battle to end the myth of the $4 Starbucks coffee — the world’s biggest cafe chain is offering tips on how to save money in its cafes, which are lowering prices on some beverages as they battle market newcomer McDonald’s.

Here are some tips from Susan Nodilo, manager of a popular Starbucks in West Hollywood.

1. Bring your own cup and save 10 cents — and the environment.

2. Order a smaller, unadvertised “Short” (8-ounce) espresso drink, which costs less than a “Tall” 12-ounce drinks, but contains the same amount of espresso.

Is your Starbucks saved from the hit list?

coronastarbucks3Starbucks Chief Financial Officer Troy Alstead earlier this week had some good news for its fans in places like Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Mobile, Alabama, and El Segundo, California.

Alstead said Starbucks removed 30 stores from its hit list of store closures, saying that each of the saved stores had improved profitability to a point where it made sense to keep them open.

Here’s the full list.

Alstead’s full comments are here.

(Reuters photo of Southern California store targeted for closure)

Check Out Line: Thinking about Black Friday deals

Check Out this prediction about Black Friday deals.

Black Friday, the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday that typically kicks off the holiday shopping season, is known for some of the best discounts of the year, both in stores and on the Web.

And its never too early to think about deals, as illustrated by dealsnews.com, which has compiled a list of what it predicts will be the best holiday deals to emerge between mid-November and “Cyber Monday” — the Monday after Thanksgiving when office workers go online en masse to shop for specials.

This year’s list kicks of with expected deals on netbooks, which are inexpensive and compact laptops suited for basic computing and surfing the Internet.