Amazon Shatters Sales Records. Again.; Apple Plays Nice With China’s New Laws; U.S. Gov’t Says Nyet to Cybersecurity Company

Primed for purchase…


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

If you haven’t heard by now, yesterday was Prime Day, which is basically Amazon’s answer to Black Friday deals in the middle of summer. Laugh and poke fun all you want. But if you do, the joke’s on you. Because according to preliminary figures from Amazon, not only were sales up 60% over last year’s Prime Day, but “Prime” sales for July 11 even blew past 2016’s Black Friday and Cyber Monday. In fact, Amazon called it it’s “biggest day ever.” To be fair, this year’s Prime Day was 30 hours long, compared with last year’s 24 hours. But it wasn’t just about the deals that has Amazon all giddy today. Prime Day also brought in a significant amount of brand-spanking new Prime members.  Because as everyone on Amazon already knows, if you want those super deals, you need to be a Prime member, and yesterday saw more Prime membership sign-ups than any other time in Amazon’s history. As for the most popular Prime purchase, that would be the Echo Dot for the ultra-bargain price of $34.99, which usually sells for around $50. The most popular non-Amazon item sold in the U.S. on Prime Day was an Instant Pot Pressure Cooker. I could not make that up if I tried.

Apple of China’s eye….


Image courtesy of ponsuwan/

Leave it to Apple to not let some vague, burdensome, newly enacted cyber-security legislation get in the way of setting up a data center in China. China’s new cyber-security laws require that any data collected on its citizens needs to be stored on servers in China. If companies want to transfer any of that information, they need to go through regulatory review and approval…in China. For Apple, complying with Chinese law means an opportunity to improve the speed and reliability of the company’s products and offerings. While other foreign firms are still busy complaining about these new regulations, calling them a burden and a threat to proprietary data, Apple gets to become the very first of those foreign companies to make the necessary changes and set up shop. The province of Guizhou will play host to the tech giant, and Apple is making down a $1 billion investment to hunker down in that region of China. However, in order for any company to do legit business in China, it needs to team up with a local entity.  So Apple will be partnering up with the Guizhou-Cloud Big Data Industry firm, where all kinds of personal information, belonging to people who own Apple devices, will be stored.

Nyet so fast…


Image courtesy of freedooom/

It seems like just yesterday when you would walk into your local big box electronics retailer and have salespeople urging you to get Kaspersky Labs security for your computer. The company already has some 400 million users worldwide and generated $374 million in sales in 2016 just from the U.S. and Western Europe. But it looks like those days are about to go buh-bye now that the U.S. government is moving to block federal agencies from buying the cyber-security software from the Russian-based company. It seems that Kaspersky may have enjoyed a much much cozier relationship with Russia’s intelligence agencies than it was letting on, and apparently even helped develop security technology for Russia’s spy agency, FSB. However, Kaspersky Labs is calling foul and said it is being unjustly accused. The company also voiced its complaint that there’s an inherent assumption that because it’s a Russian company, that it must be tied to the Russian government. Besides calling the claims “unfounded conspiracy theories” and “total BS,”  CEO Eugene Kaspersky also said “…as a global company, does anyone seriously think we could survive this long if we were a pawn of ANY government?”  But it seems that the U.S. intelligence and law enforcement agent seriously do think that and said as much at an open Senate hearing.


How Trump Is Dulling Tiffany & Co.’s Sparkle; Just Another Multi-billion Dollar Monday; Oil Vey! OPEC Squabbles Over Oil Cuts

Occupying 5th Ave…


Image courtesy of Boykung/

Despite occupying some of the the best real estate in the world, Tiffany & Co.’s New York flagship store is having some sales troubles no thanks to president-elect Donald Trump,  whose nearby police barricades, protests and secret service detail have taken a big chunk out of the store’s traffic. And that’s a huge problem, especially because the U.S. is Tiffany & Co.’s biggest market, and its Manhattan store accounts for 8% of the company’s sales. At least there’s China and Japan, whose currency fluctuations allowed consumers in those regions to take advantage of a strong yen that had them picking up all kinds of nifty goods from the iconic jeweler. Mainly because of that, the company posted a surprise 1.2% sales increase – the first sales rise in eight quarters. Same store sales didn’t fare as badly either, even though experts thought they would. Instead of declining an expected 2.8%, they fell just 2%. In the United States, presumably in locations where Trump does not reside, Tiffany & Co. experienced a smaller than expected drop, falling just 2% compared to last year at this time. The luxury jeweler scored a $95 million profit, pulling down 76 cents per share on sales of $949.3 million. Analysts only expected 67 cents to be added to shares with sales totaling $923.7 million.



Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Move over $3.36 billion. Move over $3.39 billion. The original sales estimates for cyber-Monday proved no match for the actual numbers. Adobe Digital Insights whipped out the results for this year’s post-Thanksgiving shopping extravaganza, which blew estimates out of the water and came in at a whopping $3.45 billion – over a 12% increase from last year’s cyber-Monday purchases. But what’s super weird is that apparently there were less deals on cyber-Monday than on Black Friday. However, Black Friday’s numbers were looking awfully green as well, setting a record with a 22% increase over last year and coming in at just $110 million less than cyber-Monday. Some analysts were a bit concerned that the abundance of web sales on Thanksgiving would put a dent in cyber-Monday’s digits. But wouldn’t you know it? That didn’t happen. Purchases made using Wall-Mart’s app jumped 150% while Amazon is expecting to report its best cyber-Monday. Ever. But you’re just going to have to take their word for it. As for losers, look no further than Macy’s. Perhaps it was karma for opening its doors at 5:00 pm on Thanksgiving Day, but the company experienced outages on its website that kept a lot of shoppers from making a lot of purchases on the company’s site. The amount of money the retailer likely lost was probably not enough to offset the fact that it opened its doors on Thursday. Boohoo.

Why can’t we oil just get along?


Image courtesy of Rawich/

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries, also known as OPEC, is having a big fancy meeting in Vienna tomorrow. At issue is the problem that there is way too much oil floating around all over the world. This oil glut is making oil prices low which makes for really good prices at the pump. However, the countries that produce all this oil don’t like that one bit and are trying to agree on how to fix it so that prices go up again and they can start making cold hard cash. Saudi Arabia, Iran and Iraq are the biggest oil producers and the logical step would be for each country to cut their production. But none of them want to do that. There’s a lot of ego involved. It’s like color war, but with actual valuable commodities at stake, besides national pride. Saudi Arabia is proposing cuts of 1.2 million barrels per day. However, Iran’s not down for making any cuts because it feels it needs to make up for lost time from all those years of Western sanctions it faced – and totally deserved – and still does deserve. Iraq is using ISIS as a very convenient, if somewhat legit excuse since it is, after all, fighting a war against a psychopathic terrorist organization, and the money it gets from selling oil helps fund that lofty endeavor. Rumor has it that Iran and Iraq are coming around but no word on whether Saudi Arabia will play ball. So stay tuned to see if and when more OPEC drama plays out, and how this drama will affect your wallet and your green car aspirations.


Wells Fargo Banking on More Headaches; Tonka Christmas Present Sparked – But it Wasn’t Joy; Tyson’s Not Feeding Enough of You Like Family

Leash tightening…


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Wells Fargo’s spanking seems to be far from over. Regulators are looking to make life utterly miserable for the bank by placing on it all kinds of restrictions that weren’t initially required as part of September’s $190 million settlement. For instance, if Wells Fargo wants to hire or make changes to senior level management and executives, the Office of the Comptroller of Currency is requiring a 90 day heads up and ultimately gets the final say. If the OCC doesn’t care for a person’s “competence, experience, character or integrity” then they’re out. As for those illustrious “golden parachutes” afforded managers who leave the company, the OCC gets to ban them if it sees fit. And unlike so many other banks, the OCC will no longer grant Wells Fargo expedited treatment for branch openings, and instead any new application for a branch opening will be subject to careful review. It’s not clear why the OCC changed its mind about the additional restrictions and a lot of experts thinks it’s nothing short of weird. Some speculate that the OCC is worried that they appeared soft on Wells Fargo and therefore imposed the restrictions. But others suspect this has more to do with the fact that the OCC didn’t handle the scandal well. The fact that former employers insist the over two million fake account openings occurred well before the 2011 point that regulators suggest, is just one reason. Then there’s the glaring issue of all those whistleblowers who were terminated after calling the Wells Fargo ethics hotline. Over 5,000 low-level employees were fired, yet mysteriously, higher-level execs went unscathed.

Dreaming of a fiery Christmas…


Image courtesy of John Kasawa/

Black Friday is still a few days away, yet there will be one less toy crowding the shelves this holiday season: The Tonka Truck 12v Ride On Dump Truck. The battery powered mini-vehicle seats two and the Harden family of Washington thought it wold make a great present for their grandson. Only problem is, driving home from Toys “R” Us, the ride-on toy caught fire in the back of Mr. Harden’s truck. Mr. Harden quickly pulled over to extinguish the flames and proceeded to drive back to Toys “R” Us to return the darn thing. Except the toy truck reignited, only this time it also set the grown up’s truck on fire as well. A Toys “R” Us spokesperson said that the incident appeared to be an isolated one and decided against issuing a full recall. Yet the toy company still went ahead and yanked the item from the shelves and its website as it attempts to investigate with the manufacturer, Dynacraft, what exactly went wrong. Incidentally, the toy received mostly bad reviews on Amazon and the Toys “R” Us website, with most people citing battery problems as the reason. As for the Hardens they got a full refund and a horrifying start to their holiday season.

Hard to swallow…


Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Investor appetites were not whetted today by Tyson’s earnings. The announcement that it would be changing CEO’s sent shares tumbling a very unappetizing 15%. But that’s not all. Profit came in at $391 million with $1.03 added per share, earning the company a 52% increase over last year at this time. To me that sounds like a respectable number, however, to Wall Street it was nothing short of a disappointment as expectations were for a $462 million profit. Tyson, purveyor of Jimmy Deans Sausages and Ball Park Hot Dogs, also reported a 13% drop in sales. Sales fell from $10.5 billion last year to a meager $9.2 billion, all while estimates called for $9.4 billion. To be fair, food prices had fallen, giving the company sales figures that were hard to digest. Tyson is looking to make between $4.70 and $4.85 per share for the year, but that’ll do little to cheer up investors who were initially expecting to see full-year earnings of $4.98 per share. Tyson’s troubles don’t seem to be going away anytime soon either with animal-right activists hounding the company because they take issue with Tyson’s supply chain practices. Throw in a class-action suit accusing the company of collusion and price-fixing and you’ve got yourself a company that spooks investors more than it feeds them.

It’s Not Puerto Rico’s De-fault. Yet; VW Sales Stink Worse Than Emissions; Amazon Coasts to Black Friday Sales Highs

In the name of the ‘claw’…


Image courtesy of Pansa/

The good news is that Puerto Rico didn’t default on a scheduled loan payment today. That’s awesome news if only because defaults have a nasty little way of creating lawsuits and freaking out investors. The bad news is that the commonwealth does expect to default on a payment down the road even if it did just manage to eke out a $354 million payment today on principal and interest bonds. Of that $354 million, $267 million of that was guaranteed by Puerto Rico. Phew. All this happened even as the commonwealth continues to talk – and plead, no doubt – with its creditors to get them to eat some of that ugly $70 billion debt looming menacingly above its economy. Governor Alejandro Garcia Padilla explained that Puerto Rico is running out of money which is a fact that has failed to surprise… no one. The Governor used a “Clawback Provision” for top priority payments that carry constitutional protection. In this case, revenues that were promised to public corporations were instead clawed back (catchy, huh?) and used to keep public services operating. Not sure who wins here. In any case, if Puerto Rico defaults on a payment at some point in the future, it wouldn’t be a first. The commonwealth already defaulted on a $58 million payment back in August when it paid a very very small portion of it to the tune of $628,000. Another zero added to the end of that check might have mitigated the situation even a smidge. Or not.

No good November…


Image courtesy of ponsulak/

Sales at Volkswagen dropped a lot, much to the surprise of…no one. Still unable to shake off its emissions software rigging scandal, the car company saw November sales tank a whopping 25%, selling just under 24,000 cars even when ridiculously deep discounts were being offered on VW automobiles. Especially hit hard were sales of Jettas and Passats. Passats were actually down 60%! Even those adorable Beetles saw sales decreasing 39%. Oddly enough, sales of its crossover vehicle, Tiguan, were up 88%, having sold 3,907 of them. Go figure. I guess the price was right. Really right. Experts, however, feel numbers could pick up, albeit slightly, if VW would just share with the rest of the world its plan -assuming they actually have one – of how it intends to right its wrongs and repair the offending vehicles that continue tooling around our roads, polluting the air we breath. There are some 500,000 cars in the U.S. that need some fixing as they are emitting 40 times the legal limit of pollutants. And did I even mention that the scandal has spread to India where another 323,700 of the company’s automobiles were just recalled? Well, I just did now so…you’re welcome.

Sales away…


Image courtesy of atibodyphoto/

In more unsurprising news, Amazon had a very good weekend and presumably excellent Cyber-Monday, as well. Especially excellent because consumers weren’t just using the site to buy merchandise, they were using it to buy Amazon merchandise. Shoppers scooped up Amazon Fire Tablets and Fire TV sticks making them Black Friday best-sellers. In fact, the company sold six times more Fire TV streaming devices than it did last year at this time and three times as many Amazaon Tablets than it did last year during this period. Another top seller was Amazon’s Echo, a nifty little device that does just about everything except for laundry, pretty much. But don’t expect Amazon to give you specifics on numbers since they don’t that sort of thing. Ever. If you happened to have been out and about on Black Friday, you might have noticed that the crowds weren’t as large as in years past. That’s because online purchases outnumbered purchases made in real stores as consumers realized they don’t have to brush their teeth and actually get dressed to score those awesome Black Friday deals. Wal-Mart saw twice as much online action than it did last year with half of its purchases coming from mobile devices. Even saw major action, apparently selling an iPad every second. Does that include even the times when the site went down?

Singular Sensation for Alibaba; Don’t Bet On It: Online Daily Fantasy Sports Gone in a New York Minute; In: Higher Minimum Wage. Out: Tipping

Singled out…

Image courtesy of  bplanet/

Image courtesy of bplanet/

Did Alibaba just throw down the gauntlet to Black Friday? China’s biggest e-commerce site knocked it out of the fiscal park on November 11, aka Singles Day, shattering last year’s $9.3 billion record for the auspicious shopping event. In fact, just by midday the company had already hit $9 billion in sales. Some of the top sellers were Nikes and baby-related products. CEO Jack Ma kicked off the Singles Day shopping festivities by launching the event Tuesday evening with James Bond actor Daniel Craig and House of Cards Star Kevin Spacey. After all nothing says Chinese e-commerce like British and American actors, right? The earth-shatterting sales left many wondering what many are worried about a flagging Chinese economy and its October report that the country hit a particularly slow pace in the third quarter. What didn’t hit a slow pace i was mobile sales for Alibaba’s Singles Day, where 68% of the day’s transactions occurred.

You bet-or not…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman just might be the least popular person on the planet right now. The AG sent “cease and desist” letters to fantasy sports companies FanDuel and DraftKings, ordering them not to accept bets from New Yorkers anymore. The AG called the companies a “new version of online gambling” and said the contests are “neither harmless nor victimless” because they lure in people who are predisposed to gambling addiction. AG Schneiderman went on to say that the companies are basically perpetrating “a massive, multi-billion-dollar scheme intended to evade the law and fleece sports fans across the country.” Ouch. FanDuel and DraftKings, however, argue that what they offer is “a game of skill.” There are currently 34 lawsuits in 13 states pending against the daily fantasy sports companies accusing its proprietors of unfair and/or illegal activity. DraftKings and FanDuel actually stopped doing business in Nevada after the state’s attorney there ruled that the business models meet the state’s definition of gambling and would therefore have to pay for a license.  Both companies are valued at about $1 billion each. Major League Baseball has a stake in FanDuel while the NBA has its own stake in DraftKings. FanDuel also has big money ad deals in place with both the Brooklyn Nets and the New York Jets. At least the AG isn’ t looking to get back any proceeds from New Yorkers who placed bets and actually won. Well, for now anyway.

Not tipsy…

Image courtesy of maya picture/

Image courtesy of maya picture/

No more bragging rights for big tippers at Joe’s Crab Shack. Well, at least in 18 of the chain’s 131 locales. Parent company Ignite Restaurant Group has decided to do away with the “tip” model and the idea behind it is quite simple: The restaurant scraps tipping and then increases the minimum wage of its employees to $14 per hour.  It means that for some servers, it makes up for lost tip wages. “I personally believe tipping is an antiquated model,” CEO Ray Blanchette said investors at a recent meeting. That’s lovely and all but he also believes it helps improve service and reduces employee turnover. Besides, servers will get paid the same whether they work a busy shift or a slow one with fewer diners. Of course, that tip model means menu prices are heading north from anywhere between 12% to 15%. But considering that most tippers tip around 18%, there’s no great loss there. While Joe’s Crab Shack is the first national restaurant chain to try this out, restaurateur Danny Meyers Union Hospitality Group also put this model into place in New York. Joe’s started doing this back in August and incidentally, or not, its restaurant that adopted this no tipping model the longest has gained the most traction. Which is good since overall sales for Joe’s Crab Shack in the third quarter went down 6.6%. Ironically, the National Restaurant Association does not care much for the model because the “median hourly earnings for servers range from $16 – $22.” Do the math and you realize that could actually mean a nasty pay cut for plenty of restaurant employees.

No Slowing Down Alibaba; REI VS. Black Friday; Rumor Has it Walgreens is Going Shopping

Slowdown? What slowdown?

Image courtesy of  jesadaphorn/

Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/

There might be an economic slowdown in China, but judging by Alibaba’s recent earnings, you’d never know it. China’s largest e-commerce site easily topped Wall Street predictions, adding 57 cents per share on $3.5 billion in revenue. Forecasts were for 54 cents on $3.35 billion. The company saw a 32% increase with a lot of help from major growth in mobile revenue. Mobile revenue alone pulled in a staggering $1.66 billion, triple last year’s figures, and accounting for more than 60% of the company’s retail sales. And its monthly mobile active users only continue to grow, up 57% over the same last year, an easy feat for Alibaba, yet something hundreds of other companies wished they could do. Yahoo also came out a winner today, as well, since it owns a 15% stake in Alibaba.  The company also plunked down about a $1 billion for some cloud computing investments which could see some big returns. Now Alibaba is gearing up for Singles Day, as in November 11, as in 11/11, one of the countries biggest shopping days. Last year, the company hit a record $59 billion in sales on that day and chances are it might just break that record again this year. Now about that downturn..

Take it outside…

Image courtesy of  marcolm/

Image courtesy of marcolm/

Don’t bother getting on line at 5 am on Black Friday outside of any one of REI’s 143 locations. Don’t bother looking for any Black Friday coupons, discounts or promotions from REI either. REI president and CEO, Jerry Stritzke, announced today that its stores will be CLOSED on what is considered one of the most important shopping days of the year. Stritzke is giving his 12,000 employees a paid day off “so they can do what they love most—be outside.”  The company, which brings in annual sales of $2.2 billion, is hoping that consumers will follow suit instead of spending the day spending money. The company has set up a special website,, that among other things, recommends hiking trails, that will presumably remind you of all the gear you need to go and buy at REI once the stores re-open. That’s no joke. As far as PR goes, this is one tactic that is sure to help the company rake in more sales this holiday season than in year’s past. Considering that in 2014, sales from Black Friday weekend actually declined 11%, staying closed on Black Friday, doesn’t seem so insane after all, even though the day has always ranked as one of REI’s ten best sales days, And if you’re jonesing to spend some money online at REI on Black Friday, don’t hold your breath as your order won’t even get processed until Saturday.

Keeps growing and growing…

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography/

Image courtesy of Serge Bertasius Photography/

The Wall Street rumor mill is all abuzz with talk that Walgreens Boots Alliance is about to scoop up smaller competitor Rite Aid for upwards of $10 billion. That might be a very generous offer considering that even after shares of Rite Aid jumped 36% to $8.27, the company’s valuation was still only around $8.7 billion. But again, this is all just rumor. For now. Until today, shares of Rite Aid were down 29% since it announced last month that it was lowering its profit and revenue forecast. The move will up Walgreen’s game in the $ 263 billion drug distribution industry where it currently holds 31% of the market share to CVS’s 58%. Rite Aid’s share is but a paltry 10%.  Profits from this industry are a very lucrative $10.3 billion. So who can blame Walgreens for wanting to stake out a bigger share. Walgreens Boots Alliance CEO Stefano Pessina recognizes the United States’ government’s ever-growing role in the pharmaceutical industry all because of the Affordable Care act aka ObamaCare, and he thinks consolidating U.S. pharmacies could yield some massive returns. Of course, Walgreens and CVS still have to contend with competition from online, mail-order and wholesale pharmacies, but for now, they’ll satisfy themselves with bigger fry. Incidentally, Walgreens is supposed to report its fourth quarter results tomorrow.

Brad Pitt Thinks Costco is Setting a Bad Egg-sample; Summer Style Black Friday Results Are In.; Netflix Is Having the Best. Year. Ever.;

Hold the yolk…

Image courtesy of SOMMAI/

Image courtesy of SOMMAI/

It’s Brad Pitt and Bill Maher versus Costco as the A-listers take issue with the wholesaler’s egg selection. The two Hollywood celebs think Costco contributes to animal cruelty by selling eggs from caged hens. Brad Pitt sent a very polite, but strongly worded, letter to Costco CEO Craig Jelinek telling him why eggs from caged birds is such a bad idea, Bill Maher, however, took to the pages of The New York Times, penning a scathing editorial, as only he can, detailing the horrifying results from the practice. It should be duly noted that both Pitt and Maher also praised Costco for its efforts toward animal welfare. They just want to make sure that the chain makes good on its 2007 promise to only sell eggs from uncaged hens. Perhaps then will Brad Pitt and Bill Maher return to the hallowed aisles of Costco, where they will whip out their membership cards and load up their tricked out SUV’s with a year’s worth of toilet paper. And, of course, some eggs.

Was it all that and a bag of chips?

Image courtesy of  Iamnee/

Image courtesy of Iamnee/

The results are in. Kind of. Amazon’s Prime Day did manage to pull in some boffo sales and surpassed November’s Black Friday sales despite mounting criticism over the paltry selections on its  “Lightning Deals,” not to mention the not-so-deep discounts. Prime Day, which was established to honor the sanctity of the humble beginnings of Amazon just twenty years ago, pulled in 80% higher sales over this time last year. That was just for the US. In Europe, sales jumped 40% (though I suspect none of that came from Greece). With numbers like that, it seems not everybody took issue with the offerings. Take for instance the tens of thousands of people who purchased Amazon Fire Sticks. Or how about that Kate Spade bag that sold out in less than a minute. Shoppers also seemed to dig the “Lord of the Rings” blu-Ray set as Amazon sold 35,000 of them. But Wal-Mart’s not complaining either. In response to Prime Day, the world’s largest retailer offered up its own Black Friday deals, discounting some 2,000 items including an Apple iPad Air 2 for just $400. For Wal-Mart, these last three days have been some of its most successful online shopping days. Ever. Orders increased by triple digits over the same time period last year. So I guess Wal-Mart’s feeling pretty merry right about now.

No kidding…

Image courtesy of  David Castillo Dominici/

Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici/

Netflix whipped out their earnings to much fanfare but little surprise. The internet streaming service picked up a few more subscribers. Make that a few million more subscribers, even scoring some record-breaking gains this year. This should probably come as no surprise since Netflix currently reigns supreme as the S&P’s fave top stock. Yes. That is a thing. International markets seem to be jumping on the Netflix bandwagon, where the service bagged some 2.37 million new subscribers. As for new subscribers on this side of the pond, Netflix gained 900,000 new customers who now get to binge watch such classics like “Orange Is the New Black.” Naturally, news of its impressive earnings caused the stock to take a nice jump today. Netflix total subscriber-ship now comes to 65.6 million people, and yet, the company is still far from its goal of conquering the world. Japan, Spain, Italy and Portugal are set to be getting access to the popular platform later this year.

Take That Tsipras! Greece Agrees to Terms. Well, Maybe; Big Retailer Black Friday Smackdown; The New Campaign to Get Young Americans Work

What would Plato do…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Stocks all over the world went back up and all seems right in the universe once again now that the Greeks don’t have to bail on the euro anymore – well, for now anyways. $95 billion in even more aid is headed to the government in Athens. But boy are the Greeks in for it. In exchange for this, dare I say it,  bailout, major reforms are in the works for the country’s pension system. And then there all those taxes they’re going to have to pay. Well, you gotta pay that money back somehow right? Maybe some sort of debt relief will come in the form of reduction, extended payments or even – don’t let the Germans see this one – partial forgiveness. But all of this is still talk, despite some verbal agreements from Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, since Greece’s Parliament sill needs to give its official thumbs up. In any case, at least the country’s banking system isn’t expected to come crashing down anytime soon. So yay.

Beating the holiday rush…

Image courtesy cooldesign/

Image courtesy cooldesign/

Wal-Mart wants in on the Black Friday fun and is making sure Amazon’s Prime Day doesn’t get all the retail glory. The world’s largest retailer will also be slashing prices on thousands of items this week. Except Wal-Mart calls these discounts “rollbacks.” Just sayin’. Unlike Amazon, you don’t have to buy a special membership in order to get its great deals. “We just don’t believe you should pay a fee to get a better price,” Walmart’s Ravi Jariwala graciously explained. As if that wasn’t enough, free shipping comes with a just a $35.00 minimum, as opposed to the $50.00 minimum it usually requires. Wal-Mart has been losing a lot of ground to Amazon’s e-tail dominance in recent years and knows it has to up its “A” game. Which is all good news for consumers who get to reap the rewards here. Wal-Mart does have plans in the future to offer a similar membership program like Amazon’s Prime, but it will be half the price. As for the other big retailers gearing up for some Black Friday fun, Target and Best Buy will be joining in so get ready to whip out your plastic.


Image courtesy of ddpavumba/

Image courtesy of ddpavumba/

Howard Schultz found a way to rebound from his last poorly received social campaign. But this time around, people will agree he got it right. Dubbed the 100,000 Opportunities Initiative, the goal is to take 16-24 year olds from low-income areas, who are neither studying nor working, and give them gainful employment opportunities. In fact, there are about 3.5 million jobs up for grabs that don’t require a college degree and Starbucks, along with other more than a dozen other top U.S. companies, including Microsoft and Alaska Airlines, are eager to fill them. Like now. There are approximately 5.6 million young Americans who this initiative is targeting and who are eligible for these opportunities which range from full-time positions to internships and everything in between. Wall Street certainly digs Howard Schultz’s idea as well. Shares of Starbucks hit an all time high today.

At Walmart, Black Fridays Isn’t Just For Fridays; Macy’s Third Quarter Mixed Emotions; SeaWorld’s Earnings Belly Flop

You didn’t get the memo?

Image courtesy of Feelart/

Image courtesy of Feelart/

Big things are happening at the world’s largest retailer, Walmart, just in time for the holiday chaos. Remember the day when Black Friday was just that? One single Friday? Well, at Walmart, those days are long gone as a new era of holiday shopping ushers in a  five-day Black Friday. Beginning the last week of November and through to the first week of December, Black Friday deals can be had for several days, beginning on Thanksgiving Thursday, at 6pm – that is, in case you’ve had your fill of tryptophan and pumpkin pie by then. Even better is the “urgent agenda” memo recently sent out to Walmarts 5,000 stores basically telling them to clean up their act in the “chilled and fresh” departments. Employees are advised to ask themselves, “Would I buy it?” when determining if meat, dairy and produce should be chucked from the shelves, discounted, or sold for full price to unsuspecting customers.

Tis’ the season…

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/

Image courtesy of jscreationzs/

Macy’s had a decent quarter. Sort of. The retailer scored a profit of over 30%, pulling in $217 million and $0.61 per share. A year ago Macy’s posted a $177 million profit at $.47 per share. However, its sales numbers failed to impress dropping to $6.2 billion from $6.3 billion a year earlier. But because the company is entering a 4th quarter with a potentially frenetic and lucrative holiday shopping season, it doesn’t feel a need to dwell too much on the disappointing numbers, hoping its fourth quarter digits will erase any fiscal anguish.


Image courtesy of bandrat/

Image courtesy of bandrat/

Looks like people aren’t feeling the love for Shamu, or rather the fact that the Orca and his water-loving pals aren’t joyfully frolicking in a more natural habitat. At least, judging by SeaWorld’s third quarter earnings which tanked (slight pun intended) on all fronts. Earnings came in at at close to $496 million but that was a whale of a loss from the $538 million it took in last year at this time. Net income also took a dive taking in only $87 million, a more than $30 million loss of last year’s $121 million figure. It seems SeaWorld just can’t shake all the bad press it received courtesy of the “Blackfish” documentary. While 8.4 million people visited SeaWorld parks this quarter, it was still a 5% decrease over last year’s third quarter, and the ones who did actually grace Shamu with their presence didn’t spend as much money there as in previous years either. Then there’s issue of that lovable rodent we call, Mickey over at Disneyworld/land, who together with his pals Harry Potter and Cinderella, are definitely taking a big chunk out of SeaWorld’s dwindling attendance.

Jack Ma’s One Singular Sensation; Google Gets New Lease on…Space; Best Buy’s Gobble Gobble

You’re celebrating what?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/

If you despise Valentine’s Day you might want to consider moving to China where November 11, as in 11/11, the holiday known as Singles day, was jubilantly and fiscally celebrated. Started in 1993 by group of Chinese students who decided to celebrate their singledom every year on 11/11, retailers savvily recognized a highly lucrative opportunity and now slash prices on this day in honor of “eligible” shoppers splurging on …themselves. It’s like Cyber-Monday and the opposite of Valentine’s Day all rolled into a neat little discounted package. E-commerce giant Alibaba and its CEO Jack Ma were certainly feeling the Singles Day love as his company hit a record-breaking $9.3 billion mark in sales. And even though Americans might not have been rejoicing in the retail festivities taking place in China, some American retailers, like Costco and Calvin Klein, still got to participate and reaped some good fortune.

The real estate in this town, I tell ya…

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/

Image courtesy of Victor Habbick/

Google subsidiary Planetary Ventures is dishing out over $1 billion for some real estate. That’s not to mention the $200 million more it will pay just to fix up the joint. But at  least it’s a sixty year lease, so that’ll give it plenty of time to make it feel like home…or work, I guess. The real estate in question is actually the famous Hangar One at Moffett Field in Silicon Valley (where else?), built in the early 1930’s by the Navy and later transferred to NASA. In case you were wondering what Google plans to do with a massive 350,000 hangar that comes with two runways and a golf course (yes, a golf course), then wonder no more. Google’s looking to broaden its horizons – and portfolio, no doubt – into robotics, drones, balloons and, of course, space. Naturally, there are detractors, like Consumer Watchdog, which feels Google will use the land as it pleases, and not necessarily for the good of mankind. But others, including Congresswoman Anna Eshoo, D-Palo Alto, argue that it provides a great opportunity to restore famed Moffettt Field. Besides, now NASA doesn’t need to to pay over $6 million a year for all those irritating maintenance fees.

Another one bites the turkey dust…

Image courtesy of hin255/

Image courtesy of hin255/

In the lack-of-Thanksgiving-spirit, Best Buy becomes the latest relatailer to spoil family time and a tryptophan high by serving its Black Friday deals on Thursday as in, Thanksgiving. You can get going on your chaotic Black Friday shopping as early as 5pm, just as you begin to digest your poultry. How convenient. Then you waddle it iff as you meander through aisles and aisles of discounted electronic offerings, until 1 am. Surely with over 1000 stores in 47 states, you’ll able to score a bunch of merchandise at some great prices. But if you just don’t want to destroy the spirit of a national holiday devoted to sitting down at an actual meal with your loved ones and offering thanks for all that you have, Best Buy will still be offering discounts on the actual Friday for which “Black Friday” is aptly named.