You think you’re going to get a deal this Black Friday? You’ll have to get through the diehards first.
“Are you kidding?” Amanda Willis, 21, shouted into her phone, after secretly making it ring. “Yankee Candle is giving away those big candles for free for the next 10 minutes?!” Most of the hour-long line in front of her fled the J.Crew store at Jersey Shore Premium Outlets to dash over to the candle store. Willis checked out in 15 minutes. “I’m on a schedule,” the college senior and frugal fashion blogger told TODAY with a laugh mixed with both guilt and glee, recalling last year’s ruse.
After waiting for 30 minutes for parking on Black Friday, a guy cut off Tyger Danger, 24, and stole her spot. “I threatened to key his car,” said the Orlando, Fla., public relations executive who flies home annually to shop Black Friday with her family. Since she was girl, her mother has bought her a new Christmas dress each year. “I find the day very stressful,” Danger told TODAY. “As I’ve grown older, I find myself staying away from large crowds, but my mother loves it. She loves the hustle and bustle. She loves the decorations, the energy and excitement.”
Black Friday isn’t what it used to be. There are cops now, organized lines, and claim tickets passed out for the door busters. They’re necessary elements after a Wal-Mart worker was trampled to death in 2008 by uncontrolled crowds. Retailers have gotten better at crafting and marketing stingier deals, too. The day doesn’t even start on Friday anymore, with many stores this year opening at 8 p.m. on Thanksgiving.
Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) and American Express (AXP) are taking a big plunge into the prepaid debit-card market with a new card called Bluebird. The card has many features that are standard in regular bank accounts and seems to have remarkably few fees—which have long been the scourge of prepaid cards. Bluebird is the biggest sign yet that prepaid cards are evolving from a product for the poor and unbanked into a more mass-market offering that competes with regular checking accounts.
NerdWallet, which maintains a database of prepaid cards, says Bluebird is “exactly as momentous as they make it out to be” because it has virtually no fees. The card has no monthly maintenance fees, and it’s free to load money on it through direct deposit, with cash at Wal-Mart, or via transfer from a checking account. (It costs $2 to use a debit card to load money on the Bluebird card, which seems like a strange thing to do in any case.) Bluebird doesn’t allow overdrafts, so there will be no surprise charges for spending more than the account balance. It costs $2 to withdraw cash from an ATM—and that fee is waived for in-network ATMs if the card is loaded via direct deposit. Strangely, the full Bluebird website won’t be up and running for another week, so it’s not clear if there will be fees for other features such as the peer-to-peer transfers that are possible with Bluebird’s mobile app.
Amex and Wal-Mart started a pilot program for Bluebird in 2011, with a more limited set of features. The relaunched product is much closer to a true bank account alternative. For example, it lets customers pay bills online and deposit checks by taking photos of them, a feature several major banks have added as recently as last month. Like many prepaid cards, Bluebird cards aren’t FDIC-insured and don’t have as much consumer protection as a standard checking account.
It’s more bad news for Walmart. After a New York Times story alleged that Walmart bribed officials in Mexico to allow the company to open stores in that country, another new report reveals exactly how much it costs a community in dollars and cents when Walmart comes to town.
The research, done by a Northwest community group, estimates that one Walmart store, which is set to open in a Washington neighborhood, will decrease the community’s economic output over 20 years by an estimated $13 million. It also estimates the Walmart will cost the community an additional $14 million in lost wages over the next 20 years.
“We know now the true economic impact a Walmart store has on a neighborhood when it moves in,” Christopher Fowler, who conducted the research for Puget Sound Sage, said. “The research shows that the negative impact is due to the use of the Walmart business model. A new ‘generic’ grocery store does not equal economic harm, but a new Walmart does.”
“When Walmart comes to town, it is going to reallocate sales and its impact is going to be a function of the difference between what is currently being paid in wages at the existing stores and what Walmart pays,” Fowler said.
That redistribution in sales is estimated at $25 million annually, according to the research. This means that nearly $660,000 in wages is lost annually.
“Walmart may say they help people ‘Live Better,’” said David West, executive director of Puget Sound Sage, a nonprofit public policy organization that looks at regional economic issues. “But this study shows that communities will be much worse off, with lower wages and less money in the community, after a Walmart opens.”
The losses are tied mainly to the low wages Walmart pays its employees.
“These impacts stem from the low wages Walmart pays to its hourly associates compared to the wages earned by comparable employees of existing retail grocery stores,” the researchers said. “The difference in wages, which we estimate to be at least $3 per hour, has the capacity to impact not only the workers themselves, but also the people from whom they purchase goods and services.”
Strange Random Walmart Quote:
- WalMex or WalMart same stuff different country (bzerob1.wordpress.com)
- Walmart: Cooperating in bribery probe (upi.com)
- WalMart Bribery in México and all over the World (doctoramarthacastro.wordpress.com)
- Walmart hid bribery in Mexico – report (business.inquirer.net)
- Walmart May Have Spent $24 Million in Mexican Bribes [Walmart] (gawker.com)
- Walmart hit by bribery probe, shares plunge (wnd.com)
- Advice From Walmart Exec at Center of Scandal: ‘Personal Integrity’ is Key (propublica.org)
- DEAR WALMART: If The Bribery Story Is True, You Need To Fire Your CEO (WMT) (businessinsider.com)
Nov. 23 Bloomberg — Every Black Friday, there’s a staring contest between retailers and shoppers over price. This year, the stores may have blinked first.
Chains such as Toys “R” Us Inc. and Gap Inc. are opening earlier and offering more markdowns than ever on the day after Thanksgiving, said Mary Delk, a director at Deloitte Consulting. The result may be higher sales and lower profits for retailers over the holiday season.
“Consumer anxiety has resulted in a frenzy among retailers to compete for market share,” said Delk, who is based in Charlotte, North Carolina. “The inducements and deals are bigger and bolder.”
Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is promoting a two-piece boys’ sleep set featuring Disney characters for $4.47. J.C. Penney Co. will sell $18.88 digital music players and $30 kids’ camcorders. Black Friday shoppers who visit a Sears Holdings Corp. store will receive a coupon book with more than $3,000 in discounts.
Retailers are pouring on the discounts to attract consumers grappling with 9 percent unemployment and a slower U.S. economic expansion than previously estimated. Third-quarter gross domestic product climbed at a 2 percent annual rate, down from a prior estimate of 2.5 percent growth, the Commerce Department reported yesterday in Washington.
Consumer spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, grew at a 2.3 percent annual rate, little changed from the 2.4 percent initial estimate.
Strange Random Consumer Quote:
“Economic depression cannot be cured by legislative action or executive pronouncement. Economic wounds must be healed by the action of the cells of the economic body – the producers and consumers themselves.” – Herbert Hoover
- How To Survive (And Conquer) Black Friday (buzz103.radio.com)
- Corn futures up 62 percent (sfgate.com)
- Black Friday on Zazzle is coming! (zazzle.com)
- The nuts and bolts of Black Friday (seattlepi.com)
- Pre-Black Friday retail traffic up 6% (weblogs.hitwise.com)
- Stores Bowing to Black Friday Buyers (businessweek.com)
Strange Random Corporation Quote:
- Wall-Mart remains atop Fortune 500 list (seattlepi.com)
- Fortune 500 List 2011: Who Will Be No. 1? (abcnews.go.com)
- Wal-Mart rules again (money.cnn.com)
- Executive Coaching Firm rd&partners Launches New Website and Blog, with Return on Investment in Excess of 300% for Fortune 500 Firms (prweb.com)
- GM posts biggest profit since 2000 (money.cnn.com)
- Stocks set to dip at the open (money.cnn.com)