Walmart’s Feeling Very Merry; Walmart’s Also Getting Grinchy; Campbell’s: Carrot’s Not Good Food!

Drones, scooters, lip gloss trucks…oh my!

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Those are just some of the goodies that are on Walmart’s top 25 toys for the holiday season. Wait! WWWWhhhhaaat? We didn’t even feast at our Labor Day barbecues yet and already the largest U.S. retailer is already gearing up for Christmas? Well, who can blame Walmart, after all? It has to compete against Toys R Us, Target, but most importantly, Amazon. In all fairness, there are only 114 days left until Christmas.  The toy industry sees 70% of annual sales occurring in the last two months of the year. No reason why that percentage can’t be increased. So it makes sense that Walmart is pulling out all the stops to upset the competition. Starting tomorrow you can even begin putting your holiday shopping on layaway. Just as long as the item(s) are a minimum of $50. Since toys that are inspired by movies outperform other toys by A LOT, Walmart is betting big on Star Wars, Disney and those ever-industrious Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. Input for the top 25 toys came from kids between the ages of 1.5 years old to twelve years old, whose faves included a Star Wars Electronic R2D2 and a Num Noms Lip Gloss Truck. Personally I could go for both. Six of the top 25 toys will be exclusive to Walmart, with another 400 more exclusives that didn’t break the top 25. Nothing like a little exclusivity to gain that retail edge, right?

In other Walmart news…

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

On the heels of expanding its layaway program, the country’s largest private employer will be laying off 7,000 of its employees. Those employees will hail from the ranks of accounting and invoicing. But don’t be so quick to judge. There’ll be plenty of time for that later. By cutting those 7,000 jobs, Walmart can hire more employees to work in its stores in customer-facing positions. Hey, don’t knock it. It’s the one-thing Amazon can’t do as well given its online domination. And no doubt, if those 7,000 employees want customer-facing roles, its likely Walmart will find a place for them. I think. The irony just warms the heart, doesn’t it? This latest initiative began in the summer, when 500 stores eliminated three administrative positions. The test was to determine if the functions of those positions could be redistributed to other employees, with some even being replaced by machines. Unfortunately for those whose jobs were eliminated, the test worked. Walmart made a huge push shifting spending to employees who work in the stores stocking shelves and dealing with customers. Walmart already plunked down $2.7 billion for wage increases to boost the wages of those employees. There must be something to be said for that approach as the retailer reported 79 weeks of rising customer satisfaction, eight straight quarters of increased sales and improved traffic.

That darn carrot!

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Image courtesy of KEKO64/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The world’s largest soup maker, Campbell’s Soup, reported smaller than expected adjusted profit for its fourth quarter. But the real story is the culprit behind that disappointing profit…carrots. Yes. Carrots. After all, how can you trust a vegetable that looks prettier than it tastes? Four years ago Campbell’s Soup bought Bolthouse Farms for $1.55 billion in order to expand its fresh and organic offerings. But this year a drought in California put quite the damper on the season’s carrot crop that led to lower sales of carrots – because of their higher-than-normal prices – and carrot-based products. Then there was that pesky recall of its protein drinks that also took those earnings on a very unpleasant dive. Campbell’s reported an $81 million net loss. However, that was tied to a $141 million pre-tax impairment charge from writing down the value of Bolthouse Farms. But still. The loss was painful. If that weren’t bad enough, the company also forecast earnings that were not what analysts were hoping to see. Instead of raking an estimated $3.15 for the year, Campbell’s only expects to take in between $3.00 and $3.09. Wall Street is so not into earnings forecast reductions. But Campbell’s still felt confident enough to raise its quarterly dividend from 31.2 cents to 35 cents. So maybe soup is good food after all.

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Busted! Data-Breaching Cyber-Crooks Indicted; Trump Dumps on China; Campbell’s Soup Aims for Comeback,

So not cool…

Image courtesy of chanpipat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of chanpipat/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Prosecutors announced charges today against four very greedy men who hold the notorious distinction of having perpetrated one of the largest data breaches. Ever. They’ll have plenty of time to celebrate that odious achievement in what will presumably be a significant stretch of time spent in an prison cell sans internet. The alleged perps ran their illicit actives from 2012 until mid 2015, where they used their tech skills in the worst way for online casinos, hacking, stock manipulation and an assortment of other cyber-crimes. In the exceptionally unflattering indictment, are the four men are accused of targeting financial institutions, publishers, online stock brokers and software firms. Among some of particularly odious crimes, the alleged perps engaged in perennially classic money laundering, not to mention running an unlawful bitcoin exchange. JP Morgan Chase was one of the 15 unfortunate victims of the online schemes that generated hundreds of millions of ill-gotten dollars and stole data from more than 100 million customers. JP Morgan’s 2014 hack earned the financial institution the dubious distinction of suffering the “largest theft of customer data from a U.S. financial institution in history.” Lucky them.

And here’s where it starts to make sense…or get weird…

Image courtesy of Keattikorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Keattikorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Now that SNL is over, Presidential candidate Donald Trump has decided to take on China today in an op-ed piece for “The Wall Street Journal” where he accuses China of “robbing Americans of billions of dollars of capital and millions of jobs.”  He made a pledge that if he is elected, one of his first actions would be to get the U.S. Treasury department to declare China as a currency manipulator. The man is on a mission to put the kibosh on Chinese piracy and counterfeiting of American goods, not to mention stealing U.S. trade secrets. Don’t be so quick to judge. Or laugh. The Donald wants to get China to the negotiating table to establish trade with them that is more, shall we say,…fair. It’s a sentiment echoed by plenty of lawmakers and domestic corporations alike, not to mention millions of Americans who fell victim to competition from Chinese manufacturing. It’s not just Trump who says that China depresses its own currency in order to make Chinese imports cheaper than domestic made products. Economists also say China’s yuan currency is undervalued with estimates ranging from 15% to 40%. It wouldn’t exactly be the first time China received that designation either. They earned that dubious distinction back in July 1994.

Soup-y sales…

Image courtesy of  vectorolie/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of vectorolie/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Campbell’s soup is embarking on a new chapter of its condensed-soup life, revamping its classic chicken soup recipe by scrapping ten out of thirty ingredients found in it. Say good-bye to the alleged migraine-inducer, monosodium glutamate, aka MSG, along with some other ingredients that are just as annoying to say and even harder to spell. Basically, nothing you’d necessarily miss. Campbell Chief Executive Denise M. Morrison explains, “We’re closing the gap between the kitchen and our plants.”  A truly touching statement indeed. But there’s a bigger reason for wanting to close that gap: money. The condensed soup company has been losing plenty of it because of shifting consumer tastes that involve the desire for ingredients that are made by mother nature, as opposed to advancements in science. In its last three quarters, Campbell’s saw a 5% drop in unit sales, besides the fact that sales peaked way back in 2012 at $16.2 billion, with sales dropping steadily ever since. If you can’t wait to test drive the new, presumably healthier version, look for the limited edition cans featuring Star Wars characters. Bon Appetit.

Electrolux Sucking Up GE Appliance; Soupy Sales; So Long, Boneless Chicken Sandwich Innovator

Suck it up…

Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

AB Electrolux, the parent company of US brands Electrolux and Frigidaire, did a little shopping today when it picked up GE Appliance for the bargain basement price of $3.3 billion. It is the biggest purchase Electrolux ever made. The two companies combined are expected to pull in $23 billion in total sales which is a ridiculous amount of ovens and dishwashers, if you ask me. It’s also expected to save the company a whopping $300 million. What it won’t likely save are a number of jobs that tend to get lost following a business decision such as this.

Not so tasty earnings…

Image courtesy of tiramisustudio/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of tiramisustudio/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Apparently is soup is not good food, after all. That is, if you ask Millenials whose never-ending quest for tasty adventures and lack of loyalty seem to have allegedly affected Campbell Soup Co.’s less than flattering earnings. Campbell’s, which also owns Pepperidge Farm and V8 (should have had one) came out with fourth quarter earnings and while sales did rise 7%, to $1.85 billion, analysts were expecting $1.87 billion. Is it really all the fault of those Millenials? Hmmm. However, accroding to Campbell’s president and CEO Denise Morrison, the food industry is experiencing profound “change and challenge.” To me that sounds like code for it’s all the Millenials’ fault. But you could also ask more traditional comapnies like Pepsi and McDonald’s who have been losing ground to brands like Chipotle and whatever trendy drink those pesky Millenials favor this week. However, on the bright side, Campbell’s bright side, that is, shares are up almost 3% and its coming out with more than 200 new foods. So clearly there are still quite a few people left who think soup is indeed a good food.

RIP…

Image courtesy of tiverylucky/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of tiverylucky/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We bid farewell to yet another revolutionary. This time it’s to Truett Cathy, 93, the founder of Chick-fil-A. Better known these days for its opposition to gay marriage than for its boneless chicken sandwich and classic southern cuisine food that catapulted it to fame. The first Chick-fil-A graced the world back in 1967, in Atlanta and has since grown to more than 1,800 locations. Born into poverty, Cathy built up the chain to more than 1,800 eateries in 39 states, landing himself on the Forbes’ list of billionaires. The chain, also famous for the fact that it is closed on Sundays, posted more than $5 billion in sales in 2013.