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Austin Grocery Retailers: The Ban of Disposable Bags

March 21, 2012

Although the Austin City Council passed one of the broadest bag bans in the nation early Friday , a few details remain to be ironed out.

 

Among them is what the penalties will be for refusing to comply with the law, which will prohibit retailers from offering single-use paper and plastic bags at all retail checkout counters starting in March 2013 . Penalties and details about who will enforce the ban will be worked out over the next few months, said Jennifer Herber , a spokeswoman for Austin Resource Recovery , the city's trash and recycling department.

 

Only retailers, not customers, will face penalties, she said.

 

The council also asked staffers to explore creating an "emergency option" that would allow shoppers who forget their reusable bags to pay a fee for disposable bags so that they aren't forced to buy more reusable bags. It's not clear exactly how that would work or whether it would simply become a loophole for customers to continue getting disposable bags.

 

Before and after the ban takes effect, the city plans to do a $2 million education campaign to alert shoppers to the change and remind them to bring reusable bags.

 

The council decided not to enact a fee on disposable bags before the ban takes effect. An interim fee had been discussed as a way to help shoppers and retailers begin to change their habits and prepare for a ban.

 

Austin is the first big Texas city to pass a bag ban. More than two dozen U.S. cities have bag laws, most of them prohibiting plastic bags and imposing a fee on paper.

 

"This is about Austin reclaiming its position as the national leader in environmental protection," said Rick Cofer , vice chairman of the city's Zero Waste Advisory Commission, who has pushed for a ban for five years. "This ordinance is forward-looking. It may have taken a few years, but we got it right."

 

The City Council came close to enacting a ban a few years ago but held off when a few big retailers agreed to try to voluntarily reduce the plastic bags they offer. Council members have said that program wasn't effective enough, and they asked city staffers last summer to begin writing up a ban.

 

Friday's vote came at about 2 a.m. , after a daylong council meeting. It was unanimous, even though a few council members recently had expressed reservations about the details of the ban, including the idea of prohibiting paper bags as well as plastic.

 

Austin retailers will still be able to offer reusable bags, defined as those made of cloth or durable materials, or thicker paper or plastic bags that have handles. Retailers will decide whether to charge for those bags, though most probably will because such bags tend to be costlier to make.

 

Exempt from the ban will be single-use bags for bulk foods, meat, fish, produce, newspaper delivery, dry cleaning and restaurant carryout foods, and bags that charities and nonprofits use to distribute food and other items.

 

During months of debate, members of the plastics industry argued that thin plastic bags can be easily recycled and reused, such as for lining trash cans and picking up pet waste. But city leaders said the bags often end up as litter or landfill trash and cause environmental harm. Activists urged the City Council to ban single-use paper bags as well, saying they take more energy to make and transport.

 

The Texas Retailers Association was the most vocal opponent of a ban, saying it would discourage retailers from continuing robust programs they've built to accept plastic bags and plastic packaging for recycling, meaning more of those goods could end up in landfills.

 

In recent weeks, ban opponents have urged the city to pursue a program that will allow Austin residents to put plastic bags in their curbside recycling carts. Currently, the city accepts paper but not plastic bags through its curbside collection and recycling program because plastic bags can damage recycling machinery.

 

Austin Resource Recovery Director Bob Gedert said adding plastic bags to the curbside program would be costly and difficult to carry out. He also said Austin should focus on reducing the number of plastic bags in circulation, not simply on continuing to make and recycle them.

 

About a dozen people stuck around late Thursday and early Friday to offer the council their thoughts on the ban; most were in favor of it.

 

"It's time for you folks to make history and take a huge step in cleaning up your community," said Robin Schneider , executive director of the nonprofit Texas Campaign for the Environment .

 

Chris Bailey told the council a ban could have unintended consequences.

 

"People act like the solution is to just create a crime out of an everyday activity, and all of a sudden, it will go away," he said. "You're trying to modify behavior by creating a punishment for it, and this has not been shown to work. ... I think common sense is being neglected here."

 

scoppola@statesman.com; 912-2939

Basics of the ban
Austin retailers will no longer be able to offer thin, so-called single-use paper and plastic bags starting in March 2013 .Retailers will offer only reusable bags made of cloth or durable materials, or thicker paper or plastic bags that have handles.Exemptions will include disposable bags used for bulk foods, meat, fish, produce, dry cleaning, newspaper delivery and restaurant carryout foods.

 

 

For more information, visit: http://www.statesman.com/news/local/austin-bag-ban-means-penalties-for-retailers-that-2213031.html?cxtype=rss_news&viewAsSinglePage=true


The Value of Michael Kors: $666 Million Man

March 13, 2012

Let's be clear: Michael Kors is on a pretty good run, but it's not that he hasn't had a few disappointments. He, for instance, is not a teacher in Ontario.

 

So far, they are the real winners in Kors' December IPO. The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan Board was the only named Kors investor that didn't sell stock in the public offering.

 

And so instead of getting $20 a share -- as Kors himself did when he sold off 5.8 million shares, raising $117 million -- the pension plan's 13.2 million shares are now worth $42.08 each.

 

Kors, sadly, sold at what now seems to be a low price.

 

He might have another chance to get a better valuation since he, along with chief executive officer John Idol and backers Silas Chou and Lawrence Stroll, also has a stake in the Michael Kors operations in China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan, which were not part of the IPO.

 

And he has steady employment.

 

The designer's contract gives him a job for life, an annual salary of $2.5 million and creative control over products bearing his name, assuming he can stay on the right side of "commercially reasonable." (The Wall Street types apparently don't approve of art for art's sake.) Kors is also eligible for a bonus and certain "perquisites" including life insurance, health club membership, car and driver for business purposes and tax services.

 

It's not the deal scored by Tommy Hilfiger -- who received 1.5 percent of U.S. revenues over $48 million when his company was public -- but it seems to be enough for Kors to keep the heat on.

 

If he does have to dip into the piggybank, he still owns 15.8 million shares of the company that bears his name, or 8.3 percent of those outstanding. On paper, that's worth $666.8 million, so he could always buy half a million of his $1,295 shearling racing jackets to keep warm.

 

That's something, at least.

 

For more information, visit: http://www.wwd.com/fashion-blogs/michael_kors_the_666_million_m-12-02


A Boost in Spending at Retail Stores and Malls

March 13, 2012

Americans heartened by an improving labor market boosted spending at stores and malls by the most in five months, adding to signs that the world’s largest economy is gaining strength.

 

The 1.1 percent advance followed a 0.6 percent increase in January that was larger than previously estimated, according to Commerce Department data issued today in Washington. Sales rose in 11 of 13 categories, including auto dealers and clothing stores, showing gains in demand were broad based.

 

Stocks and bond yields rose as the report indicated that the best six-month streak of employment growth since 2006 is bolstering spending even as gasoline costs rise. Job gains may not be enough to satisfy Federal Reserve officials, who today may reaffirm a commitment to keep interest rates low.

Consumers are “unfazed by higher gas prices,” said Jonathan Basile, an economist at Credit Suisse in New York, who correctly forecast the increase in spending. “This is a pleasant surprise on the overall picture for the economy. For the Fed, it’s steady as she goes. They will be encouraged, but there is still a long way to go.”

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SXP) climbed 0.7 percent to 1,380.6 at 11:22 a.m. in New York. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note increased to 2.08 percent from 2.03 percent late yesterday.

The gain in sales last month matched the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of economists. Estimates ranged from gains of 0.5 percent to 2.1 percent. The Commerce Department revised the January increase from a previously reported 0.4 percent advance.

Gap, Target

Sales at chains like Gap Inc. (GPS) and Target Corp. (TGT) last month beat analysts’ estimates. Williams-Sonoma Inc., the biggest U.S. gourmet-cookware chain, said demand improved at the start of the year following the holiday shopping season.

“Post holiday, we saw a progressively stronger retail environment,” Laura Alber, chief executive officer of the San Francisco-based company, said on a March 8 conference call. The company reported record earnings for 2011.

Sales increased 1.6 percent at automobile dealers, reversing the prior month’s drop, today’s report showed. The results fell short of industry figures that showed an even bigger gain.

Cars last month sold at the fastest pace in four years, led by Chrysler Group LLC and a surprise gain from General Motors Co. (GM) Light-vehicle sales accelerated 6.4 percent from January to a 15 (SAARTOTL) million annual rate, the strongest since February 2008, according to Ward’s Automotive Group.

‘Pent-Up Demand’

“There are a number of factors that are helping release this pent-up demand,” Don Johnson, vice president of GM’s U.S. sales, said on a March 1 conference call with analysts. “They include stronger employment, good credit availability, and both of those are leading to improving consumer sentiment.”

Automobile stockpiles jumped by the most in more than a year in January, leading a 0.7 percent increase in business inventories, the Commerce Department said in a separate report today.

Retail sales excluding autos increased 0.9 percent in February, exceeding the median forecast of economists surveyed that called for a 0.7 percent gain.

The sales data, which aren’t adjusted for inflation, reflected a 3.3 percent jump in receipts at service stations, the biggest gain in almost a year, as gasoline costs climbed. Regular (3AGSREG) fuel in February averaged $3.56 a gallon, or 18 cents more than January, according to AAA, the nation’s biggest auto organization. It advanced further this month, reaching $3.81 on March 12, the highest since May.

Clothing Stores

Purchases at clothing stores rose 1.8 percent, the most since November 2010. Furniture and general merchandise stores were the only categories to show a decrease in demand.

Employment and income gains are giving consumers the confidence to spend more. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose to an almost four-year high in the week ended March 4.

Employers boosted payrolls more than forecast in February. The 227,000 increase followed a revised 284,000 gain in January that was bigger than first estimated, the Labor Department reported on March 9. The jobless rate held at a three-year low of 8.3 percent.

Job openings were little changed in January, capping the best back-to-back months since mid 2008, a signal businesses remain confident about the economic expansion, other figures from the Labor Department showed today. The number of positions waiting to be filled totaled 3.46 million, down from a revised 3.54 million in December that was higher than previously estimated.

 

For more information, visit: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-03-13/retail-sales-in-u-dot-s-dot-climb-the-most-in-five-months-as-recovery-takes-hold


A Boost in Spending at Retail Stores and Malls

March 13, 2012

Americans heartened by an improving labor market boosted spending at stores and malls by the most in five months, adding to signs that the world’s largest economy is gaining strength.

 

The 1.1 percent advance followed a 0.6 percent increase in January that was larger than previously estimated, according to Commerce Department data issued today in Washington. Sales rose in 11 of 13 categories, including auto dealers and clothing stores, showing gains in demand were broad based.

 

Stocks and bond yields rose as the report indicated that the best six-month streak of employment growth since 2006 is bolstering spending even as gasoline costs rise. Job gains may not be enough to satisfy Federal Reserve officials, who today may reaffirm a commitment to keep interest rates low.

 

Consumers are “unfazed by higher gas prices,” said Jonathan Basile, an economist at Credit Suisse in New York, who correctly forecast the increase in spending. “This is a pleasant surprise on the overall picture for the economy. For the Fed, it’s steady as she goes. They will be encouraged, but there is still a long way to go.”

 

The Standard & Poor’s 500 Index (SXP) climbed 0.7 percent to 1,380.6 at 11:22 a.m. in New York. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note increased to 2.08 percent from 2.03 percent late yesterday.

 

The gain in sales last month matched the median forecast in a Bloomberg News survey of economists. Estimates ranged from gains of 0.5 percent to 2.1 percent. The Commerce Department revised the January increase from a previously reported 0.4 percent advance.

Gap, Target

 

Sales at chains like Gap Inc. (GPS) and Target Corp. (TGT) last month beat analysts’ estimates. Williams-Sonoma Inc., the biggest U.S. gourmet-cookware chain, said demand improved at the start of the year following the holiday shopping season.

 

“Post holiday, we saw a progressively stronger retail environment,” Laura Alber, chief executive officer of the San Francisco-based company, said on a March 8 conference call. The company reported record earnings for 2011.

 

Sales increased 1.6 percent at automobile dealers, reversing the prior month’s drop, today’s report showed. The results fell short of industry figures that showed an even bigger gain.

 

Cars last month sold at the fastest pace in four years, led by Chrysler Group LLC and a surprise gain from General Motors Co. (GM) Light-vehicle sales accelerated 6.4 percent from January to a 15 (SAARTOTL) million annual rate, the strongest since February 2008, according to Ward’s Automotive Group.

‘Pent-Up Demand’

 

“There are a number of factors that are helping release this pent-up demand,” Don Johnson, vice president of GM’s U.S. sales, said on a March 1 conference call with analysts. “They include stronger employment, good credit availability, and both of those are leading to improving consumer sentiment.”

 

Automobile stockpiles jumped by the most in more than a year in January, leading a 0.7 percent increase in business inventories, the Commerce Department said in a separate report today.

 

Retail sales excluding autos increased 0.9 percent in February, exceeding the median forecast of economists surveyed that called for a 0.7 percent gain.

 

The sales data, which aren’t adjusted for inflation, reflected a 3.3 percent jump in receipts at service stations, the biggest gain in almost a year, as gasoline costs climbed. Regular (3AGSREG) fuel in February averaged $3.56 a gallon, or 18 cents more than January, according to AAA, the nation’s biggest auto organization. It advanced further this month, reaching $3.81 on March 12, the highest since May.

Clothing Stores

 

Purchases at clothing stores rose 1.8 percent, the most since November 2010. Furniture and general merchandise stores were the only categories to show a decrease in demand.

 

Employment and income gains are giving consumers the confidence to spend more. The Bloomberg Consumer Comfort Index rose to an almost four-year high in the week ended March 4.

 

Employers boosted payrolls more than forecast in February. The 227,000 increase followed a revised 284,000 gain in January that was bigger than first estimated, the Labor Department reported on March 9. The jobless rate held at a three-year low of 8.3 percent.

 

Job openings were little changed in January, capping the best back-to-back months since mid 2008, a signal businesses remain confident about the economic expansion, other figures from the Labor Department showed today. The number of positions waiting to be filled totaled 3.46 million, down from a revised 3.54 million in December that was higher than previously estimated.

 

For more information, visit: http://www.businessweek.com/news/2012-03-13/retail-sales-in-u-dot-s-dot-climb-the-most-in-five-months-as-recovery-takes-hold


Meijers Giving Back

February 27, 2012

Donation will provide more than 34,000 meals to feed the hungry in southeast Michigan

  Meijer has donated $10,000 to two southeast Michigan food banks as part of the retailer's nationwide online holiday contest, "Get Gifted," that also awarded one lucky winner – a Macomb County, Mich. resident – with $10,000 in Meijer gift cards.

Meijer representatives and grand prize winner Vicki Spokes presented the $10,000 donation to Gleaners Community Food Bank and Forgotten Harvest last week. Both food banks are members of Feeding America®, the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity with a network of 200 food banks nationwide.

"While we are always pleased when our customers engage with our brand online, it's especially satisfying when the end result provides a benefit to such a worthy cause," said Kevin Brown, chief marketing officer of the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer. "Food giving continues to be a focus at Meijer, and we appreciate our customers joining us in this effort."

Each year, Meijer donates more than 6 percent of its net profits to charity.

The donation will help make a difference in the community, said John Dziurgot, vice president of operations for Gleaners Community Food Bank.

"Gleaners is grateful to Meijer for its leadership in addressing hunger," Dziurgot said. "With one in five households in southeast Michigan facing hunger, this generous donation will help Gleaners ensure that our neighbors are not forced to choose between buying food and paying the bills. We appreciate Meijer's efforts to bring attention to hunger in our community and to provide two excellent organizations with much-needed resources to address the problem."

The "Get Gifted" contest launched nationwide in November to give customers a feel for the hot brands of the season by offering players a chance to explore three rooms of a Meijer home through 360-degree videos. It was the first time a big box retailer utilized the interactive 360-degree video technology with a contest.

The contest was quite popular, drawing nearly 3.3 million featured merchandise clicks and more than 255,000 sweeps entrants. The contest launched on Nov. 10 and concluded on Dec. 18.

More than 100 prizes – three each day – were awarded throughout the contest period, and included gifts such as a Nintendo 3DS, a 32" Vizio television, and a Barbie Dream Townhouse. The Grand Prize winner received $10,000 in Meijer gift cards.

Even though Vicki Spokes, 55, entered the contest daily, she said she never dreamed she'd win the grand prize.

"I was just hoping I would get lucky and win a $50 gift card," Spokes said. "I never in a million years thought I would win $10,000 in gift cards. I was shocked and surprised and in awe. My grandchildren will reap the rewards."

Aside from the contest's unique digital focus, Spokes said she was pleased to know that it also included a philanthropic component.

The $10,000 donation to the Feeding America member food banks – Gleaners Community Food Bank and Forgotten Harvest – equals more than 34,000 meals for the hungry, according to Feeding America.

"Every dollar we can generate is critical to Forgotten Harvest's battle against hunger," said Russ Russell, Forgotten Harvest chief development officer. "This award will provide over 16,000 meals to those in need of food. We are deeply appreciative of their commitment to helping us drive hunger from the community."

Russell added that Meijer supports Forgotten Harvest daily as a food donor. In 2011, Meijer donated more than 500,000 pounds of food that would otherwise have gone to waste, as well as a semi-tractor to help expand its mobile pantry program.

To view the food bank donation presentation video, please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYQeJau3QNY.

To review the "Get Gifted" contest, please visit www.meijer.com/getgifted.

About Feeding America: Feeding America provides low-income individuals and families with the fuel to survive and even thrive. As the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity, our network members supply food to more than 37 million Americans each year, including 14 million children and 3 million seniors. Serving the entire United States, more than 200 member food banks support 61,000 agencies that address hunger in all of its forms. For more information on how you can fight hunger in your community and across the country, visit http://www.feedingamerica.org. Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FeedingAmerica or follow our news on Twitter at www.twitter.com/FeedingAmerica. 

About Meijer: Meijer is a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer that operates 197 supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. As a pioneer of the "one-stop shopping" concept, Meijer stores have evolved through the years to include expanded fresh produce and meat departments, as well as pharmacies, comprehensive electronics departments, garden centers and apparel offerings. For more information on Meijer and the ability to shop for more, please visit www.meijer.com. Follow Meijer on Twitter @twitter.com/meijer or become a fan at www.facebook.com/meijer.

 

For more information, please visit: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/meijer-donates-10000-to-gleaners-community-food-bank-and-forgotten-harvest-through-retailers-get-gifted-online-holiday-contest-140564133.html


Meijers Giving Back

February 27, 2012

Donation will provide more than 34,000 meals to feed the hungry in southeast Michigan

 

Meijer has donated $10,000 to two southeast Michigan food banks as part of the retailer's nationwide online holiday contest, "Get Gifted," that also awarded one lucky winner – a Macomb County, Mich. resident – with $10,000 in Meijer gift cards.

 

Meijer representatives and grand prize winner Vicki Spokes presented the $10,000 donation to Gleaners Community Food Bank and Forgotten Harvest last week. Both food banks are members of Feeding America®, the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity with a network of 200 food banks nationwide.

 

"While we are always pleased when our customers engage with our brand online, it's especially satisfying when the end result provides a benefit to such a worthy cause," said Kevin Brown, chief marketing officer of the Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer. "Food giving continues to be a focus at Meijer, and we appreciate our customers joining us in this effort."

 

Each year, Meijer donates more than 6 percent of its net profits to charity.

 

The donation will help make a difference in the community, said John Dziurgot, vice president of operations for Gleaners Community Food Bank.

 

"Gleaners is grateful to Meijer for its leadership in addressing hunger," Dziurgot said. "With one in five households in southeast Michigan facing hunger, this generous donation will help Gleaners ensure that our neighbors are not forced to choose between buying food and paying the bills. We appreciate Meijer's efforts to bring attention to hunger in our community and to provide two excellent organizations with much-needed resources to address the problem."

 

The "Get Gifted" contest launched nationwide in November to give customers a feel for the hot brands of the season by offering playersa chance to explore three rooms of a Meijer home through 360-degree videos. It was the first time a big box retailer utilized the interactive 360-degree video technology with a contest.

 

The contest was quite popular, drawing nearly 3.3 million featured merchandise clicks and more than 255,000 sweeps entrants. The contest launched on Nov. 10 and concluded on Dec. 18.

 

More than 100 prizes – three each day – were awarded throughout the contest period, and included gifts such as a Nintendo 3DS, a 32" Vizio television, and a Barbie Dream Townhouse. The Grand Prize winner received $10,000 in Meijer gift cards.

 

Even though Vicki Spokes, 55, entered the contest daily, she said she never dreamed she'd win the grand prize.

 

"I was just hoping I would get lucky and win a $50 gift card," Spokes said. "I never in a million years thought I would win $10,000 in giftcards. I was shocked and surprised and in awe. My grandchildren will reap the rewards."

 

Aside from the contest's unique digital focus, Spokes said she was pleased to know that it also included a philanthropic component.

 

The $10,000 donation to the Feeding America member food banks – Gleaners Community Food Bank and Forgotten Harvest – equals more than 34,000 meals for the hungry, according to Feeding America.

 

"Every dollar we can generate is critical to Forgotten Harvest's battle against hunger," said Russ Russell, Forgotten Harvest chief development officer. "This award will provide over 16,000 meals to those in need of food. We are deeply appreciative of their commitment to helping us drive hunger from the community."

 

Russell added that Meijer supports Forgotten Harvest daily as a food donor. In 2011, Meijer donated more than 500,000 pounds of food that would otherwise have gone to waste, as well as a semi-tractor to help expand its mobile pantry program.

 

To view the food bank donation presentation video, please visit http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KYQeJau3QNY.

 

To review the "Get Gifted" contest, please visit www.meijer.com/getgifted.

 

About Feeding America: Feeding America provides low-income individuals and families with the fuel to survive and even thrive. As the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity, our network members supply food to more than 37 million Americans each year, including 14 million children and 3 million seniors. Serving the entire United States, more than 200 member food banks support 61,000 agencies that address hunger in all of its forms. For more information on how you can fight hunger in your community and across the country, visit http://www.feedingamerica.org. Find us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/FeedingAmerica or follow our news on Twitter at www.twitter.com/FeedingAmerica. 

 

About Meijer: Meijer is a Grand Rapids, Mich.-based retailer that operates 197 supercenters and grocery stores throughout Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky. As a pioneer of the "one-stop shopping" concept, Meijer stores have evolved through the years to include expanded fresh produce and meat departments, as well as pharmacies, comprehensive electronics departments, garden centers and apparel offerings. For more information on Meijer and the ability to shop for more, please visit www.meijer.com. Follow Meijer on Twitter @twitter.com/meijer or become a fan at www.facebook.com/meijer.

 

For more information, please visit: http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/meijer-donates-10000-to-gleaners-community-food-bank-and-forgotten-harvest-through-retailers-get-gifted-online-holiday-contest-140564133.html


Shoplifting at American Apparel? Think twice.

February 20, 2012

Thieving hipsters, take note.

 

American Apparel will be tagging every neon legging, velvet bodysuit, V-neck t-shirt and iconic hoodie with an RFID sensor, the RFID Journal reports. The sensors will track items from the time they are shipped from American Apparel’s factory in downtown L.A. to when a customer purchases the item from one of its 280 stores, helping the chain to keep better track of inventory and disappearances.

 

Since entering the retail market in 2003, American Apparel has succeeded wildly by imparting its cotton basics with alternative appeal. The company supports progressive issues like gay rights, pays factory workers $12 to $14 per hour -- far above minimum wage -- and regularly incites the uptight with skin-filled ads.

 

Yet American Apparel has long been targeted by shoplifters, many of them indistinguishable from the chain's loyal customers. The company's stores initially lacked anti-theft sensors, inciting a series of plunders whose history is documented on various Facebook groups and blogs. Former employees allege that in its early years, American Apparel had a pro-shoplifting policy, explicitly asking managers to turn a blind eye so that the right type of person would have easier access to the clothes and become an unwitting spokesperson for the brand.

 

Whether or not these claims prove true, the fact that the company has made its money by catering to rebellious,anti-corporate youth has infuriated more than a few members of its target market. Arguably, shoplifting from the store was a way for some to subvert the commercialization of counter-culture. Free clothes were, naturally, a perk.

 

"This is a true story about stealing from a corporation," Tao Lin wrote in the Vice Magazine story that inspired his 2009 novella, Shoplifting from American Apparel. "American Apparel is a corporation. ... Don’t hate me for stealing from an independent clothing company, because then you'd be basing your hatred on something that isn’t real."

 

Of course, irony-tinged theft is a bad thing for any company, "independent" or otherwise. As American Apparel expanded, opening 133 stores between 2007 and today, it equipped its locations with EAS (Electronic Article Surveillence) devices, or those hard plastic sensors that get removed at cash registers. In 2007, it launched a pilot program that tested the more sophisticated RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) tags, which track the movement of each item and help prevent merchandise from getting stolen internally, by employees.

 

In stores with both kinds of sensors, "shrinkage," or the number of items that mysteriously disappear between a factory and a store, has dropped as much as 75 percent, Stacey Shulman, American Apparel's VP of technology told the RFID Journal in April 2011.

 

Once it finishes installing the devices in every store, American Apparel -- now the largest clothing manufacturer in America -- will also have the second largest network of RFID sensors of any retailer, after Walmart. Other retailers are running trials of RFID, though the technology has yet to become an industry standard.

 

Still, theft is but one item on a long list of business problems for American Apparel. The company teetered on the edge of bankruptcy for much of last year, due to declining sales and falling stock. It is in the process of resolving a lawsuit from a former employee that accuses CEO Dov Charney of sexual harassment.

 

With demand for American Apparel's clothing so low, it's hard not to wonder whether the company longs for the days when attractive thieves flocked to its locations. Whether American Apparel manages to pull itself up will be an interesting test of how long a corporation can continue to sell "cool," when one of the only constants in its shoppers' idea of "cool" is anti-corporate sentiment.

 

For more information, visit: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/02/19/american-apparel-shoplifting_n_1285313.html


"It's a warm bath of slow adjustment..."

February 16, 2012

The fashion elite are gathering to search for glamour in a series of tents. Big money investors are circling the heavily indebted Barneys New York. Ralph Lauren is printing money, almost completely unhindered by the shuttering of American Living. J.C. Penney is reinventing, again.

And the Juicy girls are back -- and still wacky.

There are some things that never seem to change. Everything else is in flux. It's not fast change like everyone says it is. It's a warm bath of slow adjustment -- at least to our stimulus-crazed brains. It's change that takes just enough time to grab hold that you can trick yourself, if you really want to, in believing that nothing's really changing at all.

Or as Kit Yarrow, consumer psychologist at Golden Gate University, says, some people are coping with the shifting landscape by zeroing in on one aspect of their business. "To avoid the anxiety of the overwhelming amount of change going on they sort of focus their efforts into one area," she said. "They say to themselves, 'We have to find a way to make our online presence more usable.' People get all excited about one area where there are millions of different ways the retail landscape is changing."

The Internet is a good example.

It arrived on the scene with lots of bluster and retailers were tripping over themselves to get online. For years they tried to figure out where e-commerce fit or how much emphasis it should get.

Then somewhere along the way the Web shifted from the new novelty and the next big thing to just another way to drive revenue. It became a half-hearted replacement for the catalogue. Now that it's taken off, retailers point to their quickly ballooning e-commerce businesses as a sign of success. For many, it's the only growth they can point to.

The industry got smoked by Amazon.com, which grew its business exponentially and with intense focus, logging $17.3 billion in U.S. electronics and general merchandise sales last year. Those sales could have gone to traditional retailers. The Web giant is now said to be looking to open its own stores, taking a page from Apple's successful retail playbook.

And all sorts of other changes are moving through.

Social media is becoming a force in commerce, not just a digital hangout. The economics of retail real estate are shifting. Credit Suisse warned in a recent analysis that the closure of anchor stores threatens weaker "C" and "D" malls with a retail version of colony collapse disorder, which decimated the honeybee population. Sears Holding Corp. is already closing up to 120 doors and others could follow suit, prompting other chains to pull out of sunset malls.

The consumer is still discombobulated by the horrible housing market, high unemployment, the presidential election, the bad headlines out of Europe. They don't know where to turn.

This has all been going on for so long now, it just seems normal. So normal, in fact, that retail stocks are hitting all-time highs, singling that investors see better times around the corner.

Even if better times are just around the corner, the retail landscape is still going to look much different. And it will continue to shift. There's just too much going on to believe in any kind of real retail solidity.

So the message is: Be sharp, the retail world will require it.
For more information, visit: http://www.wwd.com/fashion-blogs/the_more_things_stay_the_same-12-02


"Wholesalers balance inventory with sales"

February 15, 2012

Balancing inventories is key to managing profitability and to avoiding fresh production cutbacks if demand continues to remain modest this year.

Data from Sageworks, a financial information company, shows that U.S. businesses are keeping their inventories in line with demand, with wholesalers, in particular, balancing their stockpiles from manufacturers and their sales to retailers.

Sageworks recently conducted a financial statement analysis of privately held wholesale merchants and found they’ve kept their inventory days steady despite sales growth. Private wholesalers, part of a $4 trillion sector that operates between manufacturing and retailing, in 2011 saw a second year in a row of double-digit sales growth as sales increased nearly 13 percent, according to Sageworks’ data. Sales had rebounded from a roughly 3 percent decline in 2009 to a nearly 11 percent increase during 2010. Across all industries, private-company sales rose about 7 percent last year.

Wholesalers’ inventory days, meanwhile, have stayed level at around 77 in 2009, 2010 and 2011, suggesting private suppliers are doing a good job of managing their stocks. Inventory days are calculated as inventories divided by cost of goods sold (COGS), multiplied by 365.

“The steadiness of wholesalers’ inventory days suggests that private wholesalers are doing a good job of managing inventories compared to their sales—they have a good sense of the demand they face now and will face in the near future,” said Sageworks analyst Libby Bierman. “This is especially true since inventory days remained stable even after the recession hit wholesalers.”

 Financial analysis of wholesale merchants: inventory days vs sales change

Data from the federal government on Tuesday also provided evidence of balanced business inventories. The U.S. Census Bureau reported manufacturers’ and trade inventories grew at a slower rate than their sales and shipments in December. Business inventories increased a seasonally adjusted 0.4 percent in December and were up 7.7 percent from a year earlier, compared with sales increases of 0.7 percent from November to December and 8.9 percent from a year earlier.

The total inventory-to-sales ratio ended the year at 1.26 on a seasonally adjusted basis, compared with 1.28 at the end of 2010, the government said. Manufacturers ended 2011 with a 1.33 inventory-to-sales ratio, down from 1.34 in November. Retailers and merchant wholesalers’ inventory relative to sales was unchanged from November, when it was 1.32 and 1.15, respectively.

Sageworks, a financial information company, collects and analyzes data on the performance of privately held companies and provides financial forecasting software.

 

 

For more information, visit: http://www.forbes.com/sites/sageworks/2012/02/15/wholesalers-balance-inventory-with-sales/


Crocs Creating Stepping Stones For Their Comeback

February 15, 2012

Crocs Inc announced its expansion into licensing, providing opportunities for the Crocs brand to extend beyond footwear. The company has signed licensing agreements with key global and regional manufacturers for products ranging from apparel to sunglasses and other accessories.

 

“Licensing presents an opportunity to leverage one of our most valuable assets – the global power of the Crocs brand - by associating it with best-in-class products that go beyond footwear,” said Mike DeBell, Vice President of Global Sales. “More than 200 million pairs of Crocs shoes have been sold, in more than 90 countries around the world. That’s powerful testimony to the connection forged with consumers by the Crocs brand. Through strong international and regional licensing partners, we plan to extend the power of our brand and make new consumer connections.”

 

The first non-footwear Crocs-branded products included a line of adult and children’s socks from Sock and Accessories Brands, which launched in the holiday 2011 season. These are available in North America through wholesale and retail channels. Crocs-branded socks, produced by Intersocks, will also be available throughout European markets.

 

Crocs also entered an agreement with Accessory Exchange, which is producing a variety of Crocs-branded accessories for men, women and children, in several global regions. Accessory Exchange Crocs-branded products include hats, bags, backpacks, socks and gloves that are available now at Crocs retail stores and Crocs.com.

 

In April 2012, the Crocs brand will extend to children’s apparel through an agreement with the A Group. The children’s apparel will be available in 46 countries around the globe and distributed through retail and wholesale channels. Crocs-branded sunglasses and sunglass accessories also will launch in May 2012. Eye King, LLC is producing sunglasses for adults and youth for retail and wholesale distribution in the U.S. and Canada.

 

Through a partnership with ICER Brands, Crocs Professional Footwear Division will build on the loyal following of medical professionals with the introduction of Crocs-branded scrubs. This new medical gear is available now through specialty stores and online.

 

Finally, Paramount, a sports licensee, recently kicked off Collegiate and MLB licensed footwear for the brand, which is available now.

 

“As we continue to explore these and other new collaborations, I am confident our license partners will help us grow and spread our brand promise of delivering products with profound comfort, fun and innovation,” continued DeBell.

 

A world leader in innovative casual footwear for men, women and children, Crocs Inc, offers several distinct shoe collections with more than 250 styles to suit every lifestyle.

 

For more information, visit: http://www.fibre2fashion.com/news/company-news/crocs-inc/newsdetails.aspx?news_id=108076