Monthly Archives: November 2009

More Expected to Hit Stores This Black Friday Over Last

The National Retail Federation predicts a better Black Friday than in 2008, when recession-wary shoppers held off on big spending. Here’s the annual statement from the NRF: Rachel

Washington, November 24, 2009 – With many Americans eager to get their hands on discounted toys, outerwear, books, and even flat-screen TVs, retailers could see shopping levels over Black Friday weekend rise from last year. According to a preliminary Black Friday shopping survey, conducted for the National Retail Federation by BIGresearch, up to 134 million people will shop this Friday, Saturday or Sunday, higher than the 128 million people who planned to do so last year. According to the survey, 57 million people say they will definitely hit the stores while another 77 million are waiting to see what retailers are planning before heading out the door.

“Regardless of what we’ve already seen these last few weeks in terms of promotions, retailers still have a few tricks up their sleeves to excite Black Friday shoppers,” said Tracy Mullin, NRF President and CEO. “With retailers fully aware that shoppers are looking for incredible deals, Americans can expect huge sales on popular items like toys, electronics and apparel.”

Where, When and Why People Will Shop Black Friday Weekend

For the first time, NRF polled Americans about their specific Black Friday shopping intentions. According to the survey, discount and department stores will be the biggest attractions for consumers this weekend with 66.3 percent and 62.4 percent, respectively, planning on heading to their favorite big box store. In addition, four in ten (41.0%) will shop at electronics stores, 36.3 percent will head to a clothing and clothing accessories store and 28.8 percent said they would shop at a grocery store. As an increased number of retailers offer special Black Friday promotions on their websites, more than one-quarter (27.6%) will shop online.

While some people will wait until the sun comes up to head out the door Black Friday morning, one in ten (10.3%) shoppers will brave the elements and get to the store between midnight and 3 a.m. More than one-quarter (28.8%) will check out the early-bird specials and head out between 4 a.m. – 6 a.m., while 28.2 percent will go between 7 a.m. – 9 a.m. Fervent 18-34 year olds, who likely haven’t yet been to bed, will be the majority of retailers’ early hour shoppers, as 18.3 percent plan to head out between 12 a.m. – 3 a.m.

“May the retailers with the best promotions win,” said Pamela Goodfellow, Senior Analyst, BIGresearch. “While consumers are still expected to remain cautious with their holiday spending, the anticipation of Black Friday deals seems to be coaxing shoppers out of hibernation, many arriving to stores early and with coupons in hand.”

When it comes to what influences people to shop in particular stores over Black Friday weekend, coupons (40.6%), newspaper circulars (38.2%), television ads (27.8%) and word of mouth (26.5%) are among the ways shoppers make decisions. However, most (43.2%) people will base their shopping destinations on what types of items they have on their list.

Retailers Use Web to Promote Stores’ Black Friday Specials

As another sign that retail stores and websites are collaborating to boost sales, many companies plan to leverage the web for upcoming Black Friday promotions in stores. According to the eHoliday survey, conducted by BIGresearch, 39.1 percent of retailers will increase their use of online vehicles to promote Black Friday savings, while an additional 58.7 percent will use the Internet to drive store traffic as much as they did one year ago. More than three-fourths (78.0%) of retailers will send a special email to customers about Black Friday deals and over half (54.0%) will highlight Black Friday deals on their home page. Announces Black Friday Deals of the Hour’s, which features promotions and deals from more than 700 retailers, will feature a Deal of the Hour on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Retailers participating in the Black Friday Deal of the Hour include, Sears and American Eagle. (Click here for the full list of companies and times.) Offers will include free shipping specials, dollars off, percentages off, and free gifts with purchase.

In addition, will be distributing $250 in gift cards from major retailers each day through Dec. 25 to its fans on Facebook and followers on Twitter.

Tuesday Stocks at 10,411, Down 39 Points

NEW YORK (AP) — Stocks are retreating from 13-month highs following a lackluster reading on consumer confidence and a report showing slower economic growth.
The Conference Board’s Consumer Confidence Index increased to 49.5 in November from 48.7 in October. While better than expected, the report shows that consumers remain gloomy heading into the holiday season.
In another sign that the recovery is going to be slow, the government revised its calculation of third-quarter economic growth down to 2.8 percent from its original estimate of 3.5 percent.
The decline in stocks comes after a big rally on Monday.
At midday, the Dow is down 60 at 10,389. The Standard & Poor’s 500 index is down 5 at 1,101, while the Nasdaq composite index is down 14 at 2,161.

U.S. Home Prices Up Slightly in September

WASHINGTON (AP) — The summer’s trend of rising home prices is ebbing as the traditional home shopping season ends, two reports Tuesday showed.
The Standard & Poor’s/Case-Shiller home price index of 20 major cities rose 0.3 percent to 144.96 in September, the fourth monthly increase in a row. The seasonally adjusted index is now up more than 3 percent from its bottom in May, but still 30 percent below its peak in April 2006.
Another reading of home prices by the Federal Housing Finance Agency held steady from August to September.
Analysts expect prices to dip again this winter as foreclosures increase and economic growth remains modest. The government said Tuesday that the economy grew at a 2.8 percent rate last quarter — less than originally estimated. And forecasts for the next several months are no better. Unemployment, meanwhile, could rise from the current 10.2 percent to as high as 11 percent next year.
“As long as the unemployment rate stays elevated, you’re going to see pressure on the pace of foreclosures, which are going to find their way back onto the market, depressing prices,” said Dan Greenhaus, chief economic strategist with Miller Tabak & Co.
Home prices are a key ingredient to rebuilding the economy. Homeowners feel wealthier when their property appreciates in value and are more likely to spend money. Rising prices also help millions of homeowners who owe more to the bank than their homes are worth.
Currently, roughly one in four homeowners are in that situation, according to First American CoreLogic. And a record 14 percent of homeowners with a mortgage are either behind on their payments or in foreclosure, data from the Mortgage Bankers Association showed.
That will likely force many consumers to shorten their Christmas shopping lists. Americans’ confidence in the economy improved slightly in November from October, but shoppers are still gloomy, the Conference Board reported Tuesday.
While home prices nationally are likely to keep rising through November, “we are very worried about the potential for a huge wave of supply next year, both from private sellers and banks,” wrote Ian Shepherdson, chief U.S. economist at High Frequency Economics. “Prices could easily reverse their recent gains.”
Home prices rose in 11 major cities, with the strongest gains in San Francisco and Minneapolis, according to the Case Shiller report. That’s a shift from the summer, when price gains were more widespread. In July, for example, prices were up in 17 cities.
Prices fell by the most in Las Vegas and Cleveland. Compared with a year earlier, the 20-city index was down 9.4 percent, the smallest year over year decline since January 2008.
“With housing remaining an albatross around the economy’s neck, nothing would perk things up more than some increases in home prices,” wrote Joel Naroff, chief economist at Naroff Economic Advisors. “That seems to be happening.”
The price reports came a day after the National Association of Realtors said home resales surged by more than 10 percent in October as buyers took advantage of a special tax credit for first-time owners.
The Commerce Department on Wednesday will release new home sales data for October. Economists expect a 2 percent increase from September to an annualized rate of 410,000, according to Thomson Reuters.

Willow of ‘Breakfast at Sally’s’ dies

By Rachel Pritchett
Willow, the beloved dog and constant companion of homelessness author Richard LeMieux has died.
The 13-year-old bichon frise succumbed Saturday morning following cancer surgery Friday in a Lynwood facility.
“There’s so many people i this town that have lobed that dog and cared about her,” a tearful LeMieux said Saturday. Maj. Jim Baker of the Bremerton Salvation Army was at LeMieux’s side offering comfort.
LeMieux, author of “Breakfast at Sally’s: One Homeless Man’s Inspirational Journey,” credits his dog with saving his life seven years ago when the thought of her alone caused him to pull back from jumping off the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. LeMieux was homeless and despondent then, ending up at the Bremerton Salvation Army, inspiration for his book.
Since publication of the book last year, Willow has accompanied LeMieux on many presentations and book-signings across the nation.
“Her soul will live on,” LeMieux said.

Upscale McDonald’s Brings European Style to NYC

NEW YORK (AP) — Danish Modern furniture. Flat-screen TVs. Free wi-fi.
You want fries with that?
A McDonald’s in midtown Manhattan became the first in the U.S. this fall to undergo a sleek, European-style makeover similar to what McDonald’s has done at thousands of outlets around in France and the United Kingdom.
The eatery is outfitted with outlets for plugging in laptops, upholstered vinyl chairs instead of Fiberglas seats bolted to the floor, subdued lighting and employees whose all-black uniforms suggest a hip boutique.
“It’s like a lounge,” said Kimberly Burgess, one of many patrons who did a double-take after entering the newly renovated restaurant in Manhattan’s Chelsea section. “It’s so different from all the other McDonald’s. It’s beautiful.”
Franchise owner Paul Hendel said customers have settled down in a restaurant not known for patrons lingering over lunch.
“We’re becoming a more relevant type of restaurant for the younger crowd,” he said. “They don’t feel rushed. They’re reading the newspaper, relaxed.”
McDonald’s Corp. spokeswoman Danya Proud said that while thousands of the chain’s 14,000 restaurants have been updated over the last few years, the Chelsea location is the first “urban redesign” in the U.S. She said “we’ll continue to evaluate” whether more might follow.
Proud said the redesign was intended “to give our customers more of a reason to make McDonald’s a destination.”
“People are using our restaurants differently today than they did five, 10, 20 years ago,” she said. “People are multi-tasking, doing more on a given day. … You want to be able to open your laptop, log on and get some work done while you’re eating.”
Proud said the that the redesigned European restaurants — along with menu items geared toward the customer base in different countries — have been responsible for McDonald’s growth in Europe.
McDonald’s has experienced strong sales in the U.S. during the recession, though the chain said this week that its monthly sales growth edged down in October in the U.S. European sales were up 6.4 percent for the month.
McDonald’s does not release sales figures for individual restaurants.
The menu at the 186-seat Chelsea outlet is the same as any other McDonald’s. But the differences are stark. The walls are decorated with bold vertical stripes or with what looks like a zebra design but is actually French architect Philippe Avanzi’s magnified thumbprint. Tables are of different sizes to accommodate small groups or an informal business meeting — and Hendel said nearby workers have started meeting there.
There are reproductions of Danish designer Arne Jacobsen’s chairs including the Egg chair, a classic of midcentury functionality that would look right at home on “The Jetsons.”
When McDonald’s first hired Avanzi in 2006 to help redesign its European outlets, Avanzi brought in Danish furniture producer Fritz Hansen to supply authentic Jacobsen chairs.
But Hansen, the sole licensed manufacturer of Jacobsen chairs, ended the partnership because McDonald’s was also buying unauthorized copies.
Proud said the chairs at the New York store are “modeled after” Jacobsen’s designs.
Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic Inc., a Chicago-based food industry consulting group, said McDonald’s franchise owners have wide discretion in how they decorate their restaurants as long as brand elements like the golden arches are present.
“There is a lot of flexibility,” he said.
Another New York City McDonald’s has a grand piano visible from the street through a second-floor window.
McDonald’s is not alone in seeking to update its image. Rival Burger King announced plans last month to overhaul its 12,000 locations with industrial-inspired corrugated metal and brick walls.
Proud said McDonald’s upscale Chelsea eatery is not a reaction to anything planned by another chain.
“This isn’t about any other brand,” she said. “This is about McDonald’s.”

Wednesday Stocks Down as Construction Slows

Dow now at 10,396, a drop of 40 points.

NEW YORK (AP) — Investors turned cautious Wednesday as an unexpected drop in home construction and disappointing forecasts from technology companies raised concerns about the pace of the economy’s recovery.
The modest drop came a day after major stock indicators closed at 13-month highs, including the Dow Jones industrial average, which has risen 9 of the past 10 days. Analysts said the quick ascent means the market is due for a rest.
John Brady, senior vice president of global interest rate products at MF Global in Chicago, said as the end of the year approaches traders are looking foremost at preserving the gains amassed in an eight-month rally that has given the benchmark Standard & Poor’s 500 index a gain of 22.9 percent for the year.
“It’s a bit of a consolidation trade,” he said. “Traders are scared to go out too far out on a limb here and do anything too risky late in the year.”
The day’s economic news added to investors’ caution. The Commerce Department said construction of homes and apartments fell 10.6 percent in October to an annual rate of 529,000, well below the pace of 600,000 that economists polled by Thomson Reuters expected.
Joe Heider, president of Dawson Wealth Management in Cleveland, said the disappointing results “will push against what was a very bullish attitude on Wall Street.”
Heider said investors were trying to determine whether the slowdown signaled weakness in the economy or a reluctance among builders to break ground when the future of a homebuyers’ tax credit was uncertain. Lawmakers extended a tax credit for first-time homebuyers that was set to end this month through June.
Building permits, a key indication for future activity, slid 4 percent to an annual rate of 552,000, also below the rate of 580,000 that analysts had forecast.
Technology shares fell after BMO Capital Markets said Blackberry maker Research in Motion Ltd. faces increased competition as consumers opt for less expensive phones. Meanwhile, forecasts from software makers Autodesk Inc. and fell short of analysts expectations.
In midafternoon trading, the Dow fell 42.40, or 0.4 percent, to 10,395.02. The broader S&P 500 index fell 3.19, or 0.3 percent, to 1,107.13, while the technology-heavy Nasdaq composite index fell 16.69, or 0.8 percent, to 2,187.09.
There was little reaction to a report that found inflation at the retail level remained tame as rising unemployment, nervous consumers and tight credit keep prices stable.
The Labor Department said consumer prices rose 0.3 percent in October, slightly above the 0.2 percent economists expected. Core inflation, which excludes volatile energy and food prices, rose 0.2 percent, compared to expectations of a 0.1 percent rise.
A report released Tuesday on prices at the wholesale level showed rapid inflation was not imminent, supporting comments from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke’s earlier in the week.
Investors are looking for any signals of further improvement in the economy to justify the gains that pulled major stock indexes off 12-year lows in March. Rising unemployment and tepid retail sales have some analysts worried that investors might have been too quick to place bets on a recovery.
President Barack Obama told Fox News on Wednesday that he is worried that spending too much to help boost the economy could invite a second recession because rising deficits could sap confidence.
The dollar mostly fell against other major currencies, while gold rose.
The drop in the dollar offered modest support to stocks. The market often moves opposite the dollar as weakness in the currency boosts demand for commodities. That, in turn, strengthens shares of energy and materials companies as well as exporters whose goods become cheaper to foreign buyers.
Bond prices fell, pushing yields higher. The yield on the benchmark 10-year Treasury note rose to 3.37 percent from 3.33 percent late Tuesday.
Crude oil rose 25 cents to $79.39 per barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange.
Among tech stocks, Research in Motion fell $1.91, or 3.1 percent, to $59.49, while Autodesk slid $2.94, or 10.9 percent, to $24.06. fell $2.07, or 3.2 percent, to $63.54.
Three stocks fell for every two that rose on the New York Stock Exchange, where volume came to 630.3 million shares compared with 564.4 million shares traded at the same point Tuesday.
The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies fell 4.89, or 0.8 percent, to 597.45.
Overseas, Britain’s FTSE 100 fell 0.1 percent, Germany’s DAX index gained 0.2 percent, and France’s CAC-40 slipped less than 0.1 percent. Japan’s Nikkei stock average fell 0.6 percent.

No Decision Yet to Rebuild Entire Former Arnold’s

By Rachel Pritchett

Some rebuilding is now under way at Arnold’s Home Furnishing in Bremerton, but a decision has not yet been made to replace the entire 66,000-square-foot structure.
Work to restore the warehouse in the back of the structure is under way. Refurbishing work also is under way on the portion of the building that housed the Broyhill line of furniture before the July 27 fire.
But no decision has yet been made to rebuild the remaining portion of the building that was burned to the ground, according to Ralph Erickson, Arnold’s vice president.
Meanwhile, the business continues to operate a temporary showroom and warehouse nearby at 1305 Marine Drive.
Erickson said he hoped to get back to the former site by late spring of next year.
“We just want to get back in that location as quick as possible,” he said.
James H. Robinson Co. of Bremerton is the contractor.

Pope Resources Continues Reduced Harvest

Pope Resources has announced plans to continue cutting fewer trees in 2010, as dampened demand for wood products persists.
The Poulsbo-based company announced it will harvest 32 million board feet of timber next year, about the same amount it intends to harvest this year.
Earlier, the company estimate it would harvest 37 million board feet in 2009.
A company statement blamed market conditions.
“The drop-off in housing starts has curtailed demand for solid wood products and, rather than absorb materially lower log prices, we are opting instead to allow 47 percent of our annual sustainable harvest to continue to grow,” a company statement announced.
Pope Resources announced a 2009 fourth-quarter dividend of 10 cents per unit, down from an earlier announcement of 20 cents per unit.
The company and its subsidiaries own or manage 152,000 acres of timberland and development property in Washington and Oregon.