Microsoft Gets “Craft”-y; Radio Smack; Marriott Hotels: The Envelope Please…

Mine-ful…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Look out Xbox. Microsoft put on its best game face as it picked up Mojang Ab, the maker of Minecraft, arguably one of the most awesomest games to hit the universe. Ever. Actually it hit the universe in 2009 and to date has raked in about $100 million in profit, not just from the game itself but from merchandising and licensing deals, as well. The game has sold over 50 million copies (and counting). For the privilege of owning this gaming masterpiece, Microsoft has to write out a hefty $2.5 billion check.  However, the interesting part of this not-so-little sale is that the founders and top executives (and shareholders)  – all three of them – will not be coming along for the ride. Rumor has it that Swedish Minecraft creator Markus Persson, and company, have big plans to focus on new endeavors. Though the super pricey acquisition is not really expected to bring in major bank for Microsoft,  it is expected to beef up the presence of Microsoft’s Windows based smart phones, now that Minecraft will be so handily available.

Resignedly…

Image courtesy of pat138241/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of pat138241/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

As it sails towards the seas of bankruptcy, Radio Shack’s CFO, John Feray, decided to jump ship, resigning for “personal reasons” less than eight months after assuming his post. Tis’ a shame indeed for if he had just stayed through March 2015, he could have pocketed $275,000 as part of a retention agreement in his contract. I wouldn’t mind a few hundred thousand in my pocket just for staying put. But alas, consultant Holly Etlin will, for the second time, serve as interim CFO. Radio Shack CEO Joe Magnacca acknowledged Radio Shack is thisclose to riding the bankruptcy pony on its 5,000 stores while dexterously managing to avoid discussing the untimely departure of Mr. Feray. The electronic retailer has been trying to scale back by closing hundreds of stores but it would appear to be of no avail as it just can’t compete with all those online retailers offering up goodies at extremely competitive prices.

Cuz you’ve got hospitality…

Image courtesy of pigdevilphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of pigdevilphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Tip the housekeeper! So says Maria Shriver, sometimes Kennedy and ex-wife of the Governator, who just launched a program called A Woman’s Nation, to promote the advancement of women in the workplace and to recognize the value of woman in all areas of life. Go Women! And you too, Maria Shriver! Because hotel guests rarely see the hotel room attendants, their hard work and efforts often get overlooked. But those days are sure to come to an end, at Marriott Hotels, anyway, as strategically placed and conveniently marked envelopes will be put out to remind guests to leave a tip of between $1-$5 a day – as opposed to leaving a tip only once a guest checks out. Incidentally, room attendants are the largest employee group of Marriott and work in over 160,000 rooms in over 4,000 properties all over the world. The company pulled in $13 billion in revenue in 2013.

 

Employment Numbers Crunch; Nothing Sour About Lululemon; Radio Shack Over and Out?

It was good while it lasted…

Image courtesy of cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of cooldesign/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

The number of people picking up unemployment checks took an unwelcome climb to over 300,000 claims – 315,000 to be a bit more accurate. That number was about 11,000 higher than the previous week and it’s a bit of a bummer since numbers that high haven’t been seen since June. But the fact that unemployment filings were up for the week ending September 6, which included the holiday weekend suggests…well not much. Labor Day, ironically, tends to play tricks on those pesky unemployment numbers. Besides, those numbers are still well below pre-recession levels and on average down over 7% from where they were last year at this time. Now if they could just do something to plump up those wages faster than inflation then we’d be set.

 Who would’ve thunk it?

Image courtesy of lamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of lamnee/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Lululemon scored nicely this quarter, especially considering all the corporate and see-through-yoga-pants drama it experienced in the last year. And yes, the earnings were better than expected sending shares of the stock up 15%. The company, famous for its hip athletic apparel pulled in revenues of over $390 million earning $0.33 a share compared to the same time last year where it earned $344 million. Also, the chain has big plans to outfit men in yoga pants. With a stand alone men’s store already gracing its home country of Canada, New York City is about to debut a Lululemon men’s store to call its very own. If you were in the market for see-through yoga pants, though, look elsewhere. The company ironed out that kink ages ago.

No frequency radio…

Image courtesy of sippakorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sippakorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like bankruptcy is on the horizon for embattled electronics retailer, Radio Shack. In fact, the company said that by the end of September their funds could run dry. It’s holding out hope that somewhere out there the financing gods will smile upon them and lift them up from that fiscal well of despair. Until then, Radio Shack is hoping that the services they offer in store will help them stay relevant in a marketplace that has seen brutal competition from the internet. It is also in the process of trying to close hundreds of stores out of the thousands it has, and cut costs in other areas. But it remains to be seen if these measures will be enough or if Radio Shack is a sinking ship. The company reported second quarter losses of over $137 million. Last year at this time it’s losses were just over $52 million.

United We Pay, Dunkin Donuts Buzzkill and Shacking Down

Are you a frequent big spender?

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

United Airlines has big changes in store for its frequent flier program. Only “frequent” doesn’t accurately describe it.  A better term would be “The Flier Who Spends The Most Gets The Most” program. Like rival airline Delta announced earlier in the year, United Airlines’ reward travel is now based on dollars spent and NOT how frequently you actually fly. It was considered by many an expert a risky and brazen (translation: bad) move since United doesn’t particularly rank very highly with consumers. Which is being very generous considering the carrier came in last  in the J.D. Power and Associates 2014 North America Airline Satisfaction Study. MileagePlus President Thomas F. O’Toole said in a statement, “These changes are designed to more directly recognize the value of our members when they fly United.” Isn’t that sort of like saying that the changes are designed to not recognize the value of non-members who fly United? Just wondering.

Nothing to sip at…

Image courtesy of phasinphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of phasinphoto/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

I suppose it had to happen. The price of Dunkin Donuts coffee, the kind you buy at the grocery store, is about to go up by 9%. Apparently a fungus, very unappetizingly called coffee rust and a Brazilian drought are toying with our collective caffeine fix and making for smaller coffee crops. And in case you were wondering, the answer is yes. The price of coffee at your local Dunkin Donuts will also increase though, by how much has yet to be determined. As if that weren’t heart-breaking enough, expect to pay more for donuts, muffins, sandwiches…well, everything. But on the bright side, the Dunkin Donuts powers-that-be still want to sure that its coffee is still cheaper than Starbucks. Like that’s hard to do.

Radio smacked…

Image courtesy of sippakorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of sippakorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Ah. It pains me to write this but Radio Shack, where I purchased many a Walkman and batteries in years past, has posted its ninth straight quarter of losses. With a $98.3 million dollar sales decrease on its books, the chain continues its struggle against the mighty Wal-Mart, Best Buy and even mobile companies. Last year at this time Radio Shack posted a loss of just $28 million. It plans to close 200 stores over the next three years. The company was dealt a major blow with same store sales falling by 14%. Sure, Wall Street figured the company would lose some revenue, about $767.5 million, but alas, the Shack did $30 million dollars worse than that. And over the past year, shares of the company dropped over 60%. But of course, like any other shrewd CEO who posts horrible earnings and then tries to deflect the issue, CEO Joseph Magnacca sees this as a temporary hiccup and wants to reassure the world that Radio Shack shall persevere with up coming new private brand products and other stuff.

Try and Top This List, Buffet Not A Bit of A Fan and Shacked Out

Can I please get on the list?

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Forbes came out with its annual list of the world’s wealthiest people and it’s official:  None of my Facebook friends are on it.  Oh well.  But you can call Bill Gates the comeback billionaire because after four years he has returned to the top of this list beating out Mexican telecom mogul Carlos Slim Helu by a paltry $4 billion. Purchased anything from Zara lately? You must have because you helped Amancio Ortega of this giant clothing company fit  into the number three spot. Warren Buffet comes in fourth while Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg comes in at the number 21 spot.

Warren Buffet biting at bitcoin…

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It’s official: Warren Buffet is not a fan of Bitcoin calling it “…a Buck Rogers kind of thing.” Ouch. The Oracle of Omaha said “I wouldn’t be surprised if it’s not around in 10 or 20 years.”  Indeed,  Forbes fourth wealthiest man – who knows a thing or two – has shunned the virtual currency  – with no regulation or central bank because “it does not meet the test of currency.”   These comments came following the collapse of Mt. Gox, the now bankrupt and defunct Tokyo based bitcoin exchange.

Radio days…

Image courtesy of nirots/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of nirots/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Feeling nostalgic for Radio Shack?  If that’s the case, then you might want to hightail it over to one quickly because there’s a good chance that if you wait, it might not be there anymore.  The Fort Worth, Texas based electronics retailer is getting set to shutter 1100 shacks after posting its eighth consecutive quarter of losses.  CEO Joe Magnacca blamed the drop in sales on a slew of reasons including people not buying enough and bigger discounts from rivals.  Yes that’s right – blame it those gosh darn discounts from your competitors.