The List of Best Companies is Here; Sports Authority Calls it a Game, Files for Bankruptcy; Angie’s List Free as a Bird Now

In good company…

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Because there’s nothing like a list to grab your attention these days, Fortune Magazine just published its latest list of the “100 Best Companies to Work For.”  For the seventh year in a row, Google tops the list. And how could it not? After all, Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson did make a movie about being interns there, so how could it not be the best company to work for? The Container Store takes the 14 spot. As a customer, I already spend inordinate amounts of time in their stores fantasizing about how organized I could become. Hmm. Maybe I should check the company’s job board. Recreational sporting goods company REI snags the 26th spot. If you recall, they made Glassdoor’s list of companies with the best perks.  Good perks make for happy employees who vote for their own companies to win big on these lists. Publix Supermarket came in at 67. As the largest employee-owned company, Publix has extremely low-turnover and plenty of perks that keep employees satisfied for decades. You might want to check if your company is on the list. If not, then consider tidying up your LinkedIn profile as there are currently over 100,000 job openings at these companies that are just waiting to be filled.

Disregard for authority…

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Sports Authority has gone bust and is set to start closing its doors at about 140 locations as early as tomorrow, including 25 stores in Texas and 19 in California. Sports Authority managed to rack up $1.1 billion debt as it failed to keep up with current consumer trends. There’s a chance that another company will pick up Sports Authority’s debt-riddled pieces and give the sporting goods company a second profitable chance. But if April comes along and Sports Authority has no buyer, it will throw in the proverbial fiscal towel and close down its remaining locations. If you have any gift cards for Sports Authority, you might want to use ‘em up NOW while Sports Authority still honors them. Need to return or exchange merchandise? Good news! You still can…as long as you’re near one that didn’t close. Warranty related issues keeping you awake at night. No worries. Sports Authority can still service those items. Sports Authority is even carrying on with its customer loyalty program (there’s a joke in there somewhere) – at the locations that are still open anyway.

Free ‘em up…

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Angie’s List will now be free for the masses. Sort of. The review site will now allow visitors to read reviews and ratings…without having to fork over the security codes on their credit cards. However, tiered subscription services will be offered to those looking for a few extra benefits not included in freemium subscriptions. There’s going to be a $24.99 silver subscription and a $99.99 gold subscription. While those offers might seem a little pricey, they come with big benefits like an emergency service hotline and fair price guarantees. A small price to pay for some big peace of mind. Even though the company went public way back in 2011, it didn’t churn out its first annual profit until 2015. But today, shares went up almost 4% on the news, especially because this freebie subscription idea was all part of a bigger plan to help the company grow and make it more profitable. It’s also a major reason why the site dissed IAC’s HomeAdvisor’s bid last year. Angie’s List found the $512 million, $8.75 per share bid a lowball offer and said it undervalued the site. According to CEO Scott Durchslag, who has held his post for just six months, the current model made it harder for the company to grow. Besides, the company felt that millennials aren’t going to bother paying for reviews and it does seem to be all about those pesky millennials lately, doesn’t it? Angie’s List did have to revise its full year guidance and now expects to take in between $345 million and $355 million when analysts were expecting numbers closer to $362 million. The reason being is that 20% of the company’s revenue comes from those subscriptions. However, the company now figures that, going forward, it will be able to hit $750 million by by 2020. Angie’s List brass are expecting to “see traffic explode” under this new model.” The site currently has approximately 3.3 million subscribers but expect that number to catapult real soon.

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Angie’s List Swipes Left on IAC; Homerun Earnings for Home Depot; Dick’s Sporting Goods on a Losing Streak

Nobody puts Angie’s List in a corner…

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If boardroom walls could talk, I wonder what they would say about Angie’s List putting the kibosh on Barry Diller’s IAC proposal to buy the home services directory. IAC offered up $8.75 a share, totaling $512 million, to add Angie’s List to its growing portfolio of online companies. IAC argues that its offer – which was unsolicited, btw – is a 50% premium on Angie’s List share price. However, Angie’s List begs to differ and says that the  unsolicited proposal, was a paltry 10% premium on its share price. So what gives? Well, that depends on which day we are discussing, I suppose. One month before IAC’s unsolicited offer, shares of Angie’s List closed at $5.78. In which case the $512 million offer would indeed represent a 50% premium on the share price. However, shares of Angie’s List closed at $7.84 on November 10, which means that a $512 million offer would then represent a paltry 10% premium. In any case, the deal’s not going to happen for several reasons and one of them, as Angie’s List CEO Scott Durchlag explains, is because the benefits are one-sided. And not the side Angie’s List is on. His board of directors unanimously agreed with him. IAC already owns Angie’s List competitor Home Advisor and last week picked up Tinder, together with its parent company, Match Group.

If you build it, they will come…

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According to the National Association of Home Builders, sentiments are not just up, they are at record highs. Those sentiments are all part of the the joy we call a housing recovery which is extremely good news. Especially for Home Depot, who just announced its earnings much to the fiscal glee of investors. The company announced better than expected sales and even expects its full-year earnings to fall at the top end of its forecasts at around $15.36. Which is especially awesome since so many companies lately have been reducing their’s (see below). Not only did shares of the home improvement chain rise today, but its shares are up 15% for the year too. Sales at Home Depot rose 6.4% coming at $21.82 billion, missing predictions by a $10 million smidgeon. But does that really matter when profits rose 12%, hitting $1.73 billion and adding $1.36 per share? Well…it’s not my place to say. But still, analysts only expected $1.32. You see, it all evens out in the end. Sort of. Even online sales are up  25%, though they only account for 5% of all sales. But hey, money is money.  Apparently these great earnings are courtesy of builders and amateurs alike, who are scrambling to Home Depot stores lately given the rise in housing turnover, with prices of homes on the rise. That may not bode well if you’re in the market for a new place to rest your head, but if you’re selling, this could be your lucky quarter.

Striking out…

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You know whose shares aren’t up? Dick’s Sporting Goods. In fact, its shares have hit a four year low and are down about 18% for the year. To make matter worse, the company has had to reduce its full-year earnings forecast. Nothing says fiscal disaster quite like reducing forecasts. Now, instead of hoping to add between  $3.13 – $3.21 per share, the company is hoping (and praying, no doubt) that it pulls down $2.85 – $3.00 per share. Even analysts had initially expected that company to earn $3.18 per share for the year. And what or whom, you might be wondering, is Dick’s Sporting Goods blaming – other than itself –  for their abysmal earnings? If you guessed mother nature and her unusually warm autumn , then you are absolutely correct. Apparently, Dick’s seasonal items didn’t fly of the shelves as hoped, just like at Macy’s and other retailers, since the weather was warmer and consumers didn’t feel compelled to get toasty. Incidentally, Dick’s clothing and shoes fared a bit better with sales creeping up 0.4%. Hey, Dick’s will take what it can get. But the company did admit to having too much inventory – 13% more than last year – and are looking to get rid of it. Good luck with that. Dick’s pulled down $1.64 billion in revenue  when analysts predicted numbers closer to $1.67 billion. The company also scored a profit of $4.72 million, adding 45 cent per share, which was a 4% drop over this time last year. Analysts, by the way, would have preferred to see another penny added to those shares. Oh well.

Will Anyone Care if Indiana’s Economy Tanks?; It’s Go Time for GoDaddy; New Craft Beer Gets Crowned

The consequences of actions…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Indiana’s economy just might tank but…oh well. Ever since its Governor Mike Pence signed the Religious Freedom Restoration Act six days ago, basically giving businesses a “license to discriminate” against gays, lesbians etc…corporate CEO’s, businesses, politicians and celebrities have gotten involved, mostly to voice their anger and disgust with the action. Nine CEO’s wrote an open letter to Gov. Pence over their objections to the bill. Apple CEO Tim Cook called it a “very dangerous … wave of legislation.” Indiana literally ticked off Apple. Is there any state that would want to be on Apple’s bad side? Seriously. Angie’s list had plans for a $40 million expansion in Indianapolis. That’s on hold over this bill, as well. The NCAA is majorly “concerned” and analyzing the situation carefully, wondering what to do ahead of next week’s Final Four. Several mayors have already banned city-funded travel to Indiana and 49 governors nixed unnecessary travel to the state. Hashtag #BoycottIndiana has been making the rounds getting upwards of 200,000 hits. Seeing as how the backlash has only gotten precipitously worse, Gov. Pence said he wants a clarification and a fix. Just so we’re clear, that doesn’t mean he wants to get rid of the bill. Perhaps once the state’s economy is in the toilet, he might reconsider.

Who’s your GoDaddy?

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Image courtesy of mistermong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s time to welcome GoDaddy to the ranks of the New York Stock Exchange. The web-hosting, domain name registration company just came out with its IPO this morning to a much larger than expected debut. Under the ticker symbol “GDDY,” GoDaddy offered up 23 million shares at $20 a pop. But then, lo and behold, it opened over 30% higher at $26.15 per share. Not bad for a company that’s not profitable. Yes, I did just write that. GoDaddy took a net loss of $143.4 million in 2014 and also has about $1.5 million in debt. To be fair, however, the company’s revenue went up 23% to $1.39 billion. This is not the first time the eighteen year old company attempted an IPO. Back in 2006, Go Daddy was all set to make its big Wall Street debut, only to then decide otherwise, saying the market was in a bad place. However, there are those who think there were internal factors and management shake-ups that affected GoDaddy’s decision to go public. If you’re wondering who the next pretty face will be to grace the company’s campaigns, don’t bother. After stints with race car driver Danica Patrick and Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli, the company is looking to revamp its image.

Foamy…

Image courtesy of Photo by Danilo Rizzuti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Photo by Danilo Rizzuti/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Samuel Adams is out. Yuengling is in. The Brewers Association has crowned Pottsville, Pennsylvania’s Yuengling as this year’s number one craft beer, taking out the Boston Beer Co. who makes Samuel Adams. So how did America’s oldest brewery finally manage to nab top honors? Actually it had nothing to do with anything the beer companies did or didn’t do. Rather, the Brewers Association slightly altered the criteria for what can be considered a legit craft beer. It gets technical so I’ll leave the complicated stuff to a beer-savvy blogger. What I can tell you is that Yuengling was considered a non-traditional beer, because corn is one of the ingredients used to brew the beer, and therefore not eligible for the beer crown all these years. As for overall U.S. brewers, Anheuser-Busch, Miller-Coors and Pabst took the top spots. Yuengling and Boston Beer Co. rounded out the fourth and fifth place spots. Unlike regular beers, craft beers sales are up and have a 19% hold on the beer market. In 2014, $19.6 billion worth of craft beer was sold, up 14% from 2013.

Home Sweet Amazon-Serviced Home; Ben Bernanke Joins the Blogosphere; AG Settles Score With GNC

Is there anything it won’t sell?

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Image courtesy of renjith krishnan/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Amazon has come out with yet another way to take your money. This time it’s through its new Amazon Home Services with over 700 home improvement service providers services at your fingertip, with verified reviews for added peace of mind. Plumbing problems? Too tired to assemble that new gym equipment? Don’t feel like vacuuming? No problem. Just log on and Amazon will make sure it all gets taken care of. Services are paid for via your Amazon account only after the project is completed. So why is Amazon’s home service offerings different from all others, like Angie’s List, Yelp etc.?  Perhaps it the comprehensive vetting process it conducts, including making sure service professionals are licensed, insured and have had their backgrounds thoroughly checked. But Amazon also offers a money-back guarantee charmingly called a “happiness guarantee.” Apparently, consumers also trust Amazon, giving an added incentive to use the ever-powerful e-commerce giant. To be fair, however, I too, once trusted Amazon. But then last month one of its vendors sent me a completely different set of fairy wings than the ones I ordered. Just sayin’.

Payback…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The blogosphere just got a bit more crowded now that Former Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke joined the mix with his own blog for the Brookings Institute. He is, after all, its latest Distinguished Fellow in Residence of the Economic Studies Program. It’s very pish posh, indeed. The position, I mean. Not the blog. “Now that I’m a civilian again, I can once more comment on economic and financial issues without my words being put under the microscope by Fed watchers.” Which means he doesn’t have to be polite anymore and gets to say whatever he wants. For instance, Mr. Bernanke can use his blog for, among other purposes, striking back at the many critics he’s had over the years who took issue with his policies. Janet Yellen, who took over for him last year, does not get to have that kind of fun. At least for now. In today’s post, Mr. Bernanke graciously explains the reasons behind the low interest rates. By the way, he’d like you to know that it’s not necessarily because the Fed is keeping it that way – though there is some truth to that.

Whaddya mean there’s no ginseng in there? 

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Image courtesy of Getideaka/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

This time it is not a bank that has reached a deal with New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman. GNC Holdings Inc. begrudgingly settled a lawsuit over its Herbal Plus products found at GNC, of course, but also at Target, Walmart and Walgreens. Apparently, it wasn’t at all clear that the ingredients listed on the outside of the bottles of the dietary supplements were actually present on the inside. Who would have thunk it? The presence of things like echinacea, ginkgo biloba, ginseng and St. John’s wort couldn’t be verified when the AG used DNA barcoding methods to test for them. That’s kind of a huge embarrassing problem in the $33 billion a year dietary supplement industry. Of course, GNC disagrees vehemently with the AG’s testing methods saying the “lawsuits are without merit.”  GNC, however, used its own internal test methods, in addition to third party independent test methods which, naturally yielded different results. Despite all that, the supplement company will now be using bar-coding methods –  just like the AG’s office –  beginning in the next 18 months, so that consumers will know for sure if there really is echinacea in that bottle they’re holding, conveniently labeled “echinacea.”