Hasbro’s Singing the Toys “R” Us Blues; It’s Good to Be Amazon; Target Goes on Holiday Offense With New Shopping Strategies

Don’t toy with me…

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Hasbro’s getting burned and it’s blaming Toys “R” Us. The toy company gave some abysmal holiday forecasts which sent shares down about 8%. Toys “R” Us owes creditors some $5 billion.  Among them is Hasbro which was left with a $60 million hole now that all those toys from the company aren’t headed to the toy store’s shelves.  It’s worth noting, however, that Hasbro only sold about 9% of its total inventory through Toys “R” Us.  But it isn’t just Hasbro that’s feeling the heat. Shares of Mattel also took a 4% hit today since a Toys “R” Us bankruptcy affects the entire toy industry, in some instances worse than others.  Incidentally, Hasbro’s third quarter profit went up 3% to $267 million and $2.09 per share, while its quaterly revenue increased 7% to $1.79 billion over the same time last year. Expectations were for $1.78 billion in revenue with just $1.94 per share. Hasbro has “The Last Jedi” to thank for some of this quarter’s gains, along with perennial favorites Monoply and My Little Pony.

Carrot dangling…

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Image courtesy of KEKO64/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dignity be damned as 238 cities found themselves swooning and doing whatever they could to lure Amazon’s $5 billion HQ2 project to their part of the country. NYC Mayor Bill DeBlasio had major New York City landmarks lit up in “Amazon orange” while Newark, New Jersey shrewdly offered the e-commerce giant $7 billion in tax breaks. Because after all, who more so than Amazon should be entitled to receive a $7 billion tax break? But hey, who can blame any of these cities or their savvy leaders for trying to woo Amazon to their neck of the woods. Just ask Seattle, a city that experienced a $38 billion boost to its economy because each dollar that Amazon invested into the city between 2010 to 2016 resulted in an additional $1.40 for the city. Not sure who figured out that formula but its easy to see why everyone wants in on that action. And while Newark’s offer must be awfully enticing, word on the street is that the current front runners are Boston, Chicago, Atlanta and Detroit.

Target acquired…

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Image courtesy of Sira Anamwong/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Target’s got some new tricks up its sleeve this holiday season and is going with the “less is more approach.” What there will be less of are promotions. At least the constant bombardment of them. Apparently that tactic didn’t work so well for the retailer last year and only resulted in a 1.3% decline for the company.  But there’s no need to freak out that Target wont be offering any special deals. It’s just going for a more streamlined approach. Instead of constant deals and promotions, it plans to offer special weekend deals while remaining focused on pricing its merchandise correctly and competitively from the start. The company’s 1,800 stores will also offer a much bigger variety of gifts priced under $15. Expect to see around 1,700 offerings in that category. Perennial favorite, “free shipping  with no minimum” will once again resurface from November 1 – December 23 because, hey,  who doesn’t like free shipping. But perhaps Target’s most exciting new feature is the one dubbed “Gift Now.” Shoppers buy gifts and their (un)lucky recipients open them virtually via email. If  the recipient likes the gift, they enter their shipping address in order to receive the item. If not, they get to pick out something else for the same value. If that’s not novel, I don’t know what is.

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…

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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…

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Image courtesy of John Kasawa/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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…

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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.

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.

FAA Wants to Get to Know Your Drone$; Green Monday Momentum; Yahoo Shareholder’s Big Plans for CEO

Just put it on my tab…

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Image courtesy of bplanet/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

It was just a matter of time before the FAA started making some cold hard cash off of those drones that have only just begun to captivate your attention. If you happen to own one of those expensive high-flying devices, then you have until February 19 to register your remote-controlled toy. Look for a brand-spanking new website, to be unveiled by the FAA on December 21, telling you all the info you need to register your drone with the agency. Be prepared to shell out a whopping…$5. But if you do it within the first thirty days – by January 20 – you’ll get your whole $5 back. At least that’s what the FAA says.  The fee, however, only applies to drones weighing between .55 lbs and 55 lbs. So don’t worry about shelling out tons of money if you have some junior pilots in your household who have a tendency to decorate your yard by flying their much smaller drones into tall trees. If you do decide to buy yourself a new drone  in time for the holidays, know that your drone wont be taking flight until it’s registered.  It’s the agency’s way of trying to get drone fliers to recognize and educate themselves about the very serious responsibilities and safety issues that come with operating a drone. After all, who wants to see another drone crashing onto the White House grounds? Certainly not the Secret Service.

Going green…

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Image courtesy of Stuart Miles/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you stayed in on Black Friday and avoided your computer on Cyber-Monday then you’re in luck.  In case you hadn’t heard, today is not just any Monday. Oh no. Today is Green Monday and it’s apparently the third biggest shopping day of the year. Wal-Mart didn’t want you to feel left out if you failed to make the rounds on previous momentous shopping days so it is making sure you still get in on those deals. After all, Christmas is only two weeks away. Looking to score a great deal on the PlayStation 4 Star Wars: Battlefront bundle? Wal-Mart’s got one for just $299. But Wal-Mart’s not the only game in town cashing in on the Green Monday deals. From Target to Gap, to J.C. Penney and Toys R Us, they’ve all got a coupon or discount for you. Of course Amazon has also got your back. It’s just that the e-commerce giant is simply calling it Day 9 of Amazon’s “12 Days of Deals.”

Will heads roll?

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Image courtesy of jesadaphorn/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Looks like Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer is losing some shareholder fans. New York-based investment firm SpringOwl presented its own turnaround plan to the Yahoo board and its first order of action would be to oust Ms. Mayer. But she’s not the only one who would find herself out of a job. The plan also calls for reducing Yahoo’s workforce from 12,000 down to 3,000. The problem for SpringOwl is that Ms. Mayer would get a very generous $25 million severance compensation payout, a check that Yahoo’s board would prefer not to write. Besides, Mayer is on maternity leave and I’m pretty certain there are some major HR issues when you try and fire somebody who just had a baby – or two in this case. SpringOwl also does not agree with most of the other board members who feel that the best course of action is to sell off its main internet biz.  But SpringOwl Managing Director Eric Jackson wants to lose some of those pesky board members anyway, while going back to the old Yahoo logo in the process. As for those 9,000 employees, maybe losing their jobs wouldn’t be the worst thing since Mr. Jackson would also like to get rid of the $450 million in employee perks.

GM Earnings Not So Revved Up; Wall Street Goes Dunkin’ DoNUTS ; Its Girl Scout Cookie Time – All the Time

Unstoppable?

Image courtesy of olovedog/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of olovedog/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

General Motors came out with its quarterly earnings and you’d hardly know all the fiscal trouble it was dealing with just a year ago. Except for the fact that it reported a glaring $1.7 billion drop in revenue, not to mention all those charges to compensate victims of the recall debacle. The auto company earned $945 million and 86 cents a share this quarter when a year ago GM was staring down the wrong end of a $1.2 billion recall and a paltry profit of just $125 million. GM, incidentally, missed expectations by 11 cents. Try not to get too worked up over that. The automaker did pretty well in the U.S. as fuel prices continued their downward trend sending subliminal messages to consumers that it’s okay to buy all those hunky trucks and SUV’s. But those numbers would have been much higher were it not for a pesky higher tax rate and a strong U.S. dollar. Of course, it wouldn’t be right not to mention Russia and all the fiscal problems it has been causing GM in that part of the world. So there, I mentioned it.

Sweet tooth…

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of digitalart/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Dunkin’ Donuts also released earnings which were positively scrumptious. Well, duh. Have you been in one of their stores lately. I have. This morning, as a matter of fact. And, as usual, I had to wait on a long line. So there. Anybody who patronizes their donuts shops could have told you those donuts were gonna pull off some impressive earnings. So what were those magical numbers, you might be wondering. Dunkin’ Donuts pulled in 40 cents per share, easily topping analysts’ estimates of 35 cents per share. Not bad for a company that sells donuts for a little over a dollar each. As for revenues, well those sugary confections pulled down close to $186 million, once again beating predictions of $180.65 million. Apparently, much of that success was attributed to the wildly caloric and ridiculously tasty croissant donuts.  Dunkin’ Donuts Chief Nigel Travis said the chain managed to pull off these impressive digits despite a nasty winter. But I suspect, in my most humble, unprofessional opinion, that perhaps, those numbers were because of it. Think about it: a hot beverage and a sweet treat. What better way to spend a wintery morning? Well, flying to Hawaii is one way, but I digress. If its earnings weren’t sweet enough for you, then how about the fact that the donut chain also raised its outlook on revenue growth from a previously estimated 5% – 7% to a revised 6% – 8%. Can we say sprinkles on top?

Sweeter tooth…

Image courtesy of  pupunkkop/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of pupunkkop/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

No need to wait anymore for one of your co-workers to hit you up to buy Girl Scout cookies from their daughters on the same day you start your diet. Now you can sabotage your diet goals all year round as the Girl Scout Organization has announced it will be offering a Do-It-Yourself version, easily accessible from your local Wal-Mart, Target or Toys R Us stores beginning this summer.  In fact, it’s so easy, 8 year olds can do it. By themselves. Literally. The Easy-Bake Oven it is not, as Hasbro has the licensing deal for that one. But this new toy is sure to give Hasbro a run for its money as the Girl Scouts of America teamed up with Wicked Cool Toys to offer the latest way for small children to learn the fine art of capitalism. And baking And just eating cookies. The oven toy will sell for about $60 a pop and and comes with one pack of cookies. But just how this new enterprise will affect the 200 million boxes of cookies sold each year remains to be seen.