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.
Heidi Steffen and her husband used to treat themselves most weeks to steak at Sodak Shores, a restaurant overlooking a lake near their hometown of Milbank, S.D. Then they each got an iPhone, and the rib-eyes started making fewer appearances.
“Every weekend, we’d do something,” said Ms. Steffen, a registered nurse whose husband works at a tire shop. “Now maybe once every month or two, we get out.”
More than half of all U.S. cellphone owners carry a device like the iPhone, a shift that has unsettled household budgets across the country. Government data show people have spent more on phone bills over the past four years, even as they have dialed back on dining out, clothes and entertainment—cutbacks that have been keenly felt in the restaurant, apparel and film industries.
The tug of war is only going to get more intense. Wireless carriers are betting they can pull bills even higher by offering faster speeds on expensive new networks and new usage-based data plans. The effort will test the limits of consumer spending as the draw of new technology competes with cellphone owners’ more rudimentary needs and desires.
So far, telecom is winning. Labor Department data released Tuesday show spending on phone services rose more than 4% last year, the fastest rate since 2005. During and after the recession, consumers cut back broadly on their spending.
But as more people paid up for $200 smartphones and bills that run around $100 a month, the average household’s annual spending on telephone services rose to $1,226 in 2011 from $1,110 in 2007, when Apple Inc.’s iPhone first appeared.
Shoppers anxious to get inside a Target store when it opens its doors in Canada will find Canadian content inside, under a federal ruling announced Friday that paves the way for the American retailer to take over Zellers stores across the country.
The deal isn’t the first time the federal government has required a foreign company to sell Canadian cultural goods in exchange for entering the market.
However, it left one cultural industry group wondering why Target, a discount retailer, had to go through the federal review when other companies, such as Walmart, had not.
One business expert was shaking his head at what he called protectionism by another name.
A spokeswoman for Target wouldn’t say how the changes will affect what shoppers see.
“We will be sharing details around our merchandising strategy at a later date. We have had ongoing conversations with our suppliers, including domestic suppliers, for some time now,” Target Canada spokeswoman Lisa Gibson said in an email.
The first Target stores will open in Canada by April 2013, Gibson said.
The cabinet decision says Target must invest $3.5-billion in its Canadian stores, which includes hiring up to 25,000 people by 2015, or about 100 to 200 employees at each store. Target will also have to sell “uniquely Canadian cultural products.”
The approval comes more than three months after Heritage Minister James Moore recommended that the federal government review Target’s takeover plan.
“When you start to force Target to accept a level of Canadian content, you are affecting the nature of the store,” said Ken Wong, a business and marketing expert from Queen’s University in Kingston, Ont. “That’s inappropriate. It’s protectionist under any other name.”
The Minnesota-based retail giant, which has more than 1,700 stores across the United States, has been eyeing the Canadian market for more than a decade.
Target announced in January 2011 a $1.83-billion deal to acquire the leases on up to 220 Zellers stores from Hudson’s Bay Co. Target plans to open 125 to 135 stores in Canada and sell off leases for the stores it doesn’t need.
Many Zellers stores slated to become Target outlets are be closed for six to nine months for remodelling, with about $10-million to $11-million spent to upgrade each location.
Strange Random Canada Quote:
- Target can replace Zellers, but needs Canadian content, feds rule (theprovince.com)
- Target expansion gets Ottawa’s OK (lfpress.com)
- Target gets nod from Feds for full Zellers takeover – with conditions (vancouversun.com)
- Terence Corcoran: Target deal not about CanCon – it’s about easing rules on foreign ownership (opinion.financialpost.com)
- Target wins approval to come to Canada (cbc.ca)
- Canadian government gives OK to Target expansion (bizjournals.com)
- Ottawa approves Target entry into Canada (theglobeandmail.com)
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)