Monthly Archives: December 2010

Jump in E-Commerce Spending

Retail spending on e-commerce jumped 27% this holiday season as compared to last year, to a total of $27.5 billion for the period from November through December 17th, according to comScore.

ComScore further reported that on four specific days during this period spending exceeded $900 million per day, including Green Monday on December 13th, when spending reached $954 million, and the $942 million spent on December 17th, Free Shipping Day.

Stores Competing For Your Holiday Business

SearsAs major retailers compete for the hours and dollars of customers during the last pressured days of holiday shopping, some stores are staying open 24-hours-a-day; others are trying to help you identify if the store has what you want before you even get into the car.

Best Buy, which lost many potential customers by promoting 3D televisions beyond the range of many of this year’s cost-conscious shoppers, is now lowering prices on its computer items, promoting lower-priced TVs, and offering free smartphones with a two-year service contract.

Most Target stores are offering extended hours, with many staying open until midnight, while Sears is planning an intensive online promotional campaign to its customers during the week before Christmas.

Madoff Sr. Will Not Attend His Son’s Funeral

Bernard Madoff, who is serving a 150-year prison sentence for his multi-billion dollar Ponzi scheme, will not attend the funeral of his son Mark. This is out of consideration for his son’s wife and children, according to attorney Ira Sorkin.

Mark Madoff committed suicide on Saturday, two years to the day after his father’s arrest for the largest Ponzi scheme in American history. The seventy-one-year-old senior Madoff, who is imprisoned at the Butner Federal Correction Complex in North Carolina, “will be conducting a private service on his own where he’s presently incarcerated,” Sorkin said.

New Signatories to The Giving Pledge

The Giving Pledge, a campaign initiated by Bill Gates and Warren Buffet earlier this year, had already seen Larry Ellison of Oracle and media moguls Ted Turner and Bary Diller join their group. Now, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and several other billionaires, including AOL co-founder Steve Chase, former Wall Street executive Michaele Milken, and investor Carl Icahn, have signed on as well.

The Giving Pledge describes its mission as:
” . . . an effort to invite the wealthiest individuals and families in America to commit to giving the majority of their wealth to the philanthropic causes and charitable organizations of their choice, either during their lifetime or after their death.

“Each person who chooses to pledge will make this statement publicly, along with a letter explaining their decision to pledge. At an annual event, those who take the pledge will come together to share ideas and learn from each other.

“The Pledge is a moral commitment to give, not a legal contract. It does not involve pooling money or supporting a particular set of causes or organizations.”

Possible Changes at HBO

Time Warner Inc. Chief Executive Jeff Bewkes announced Monday the possible institution of a new business model to keep pace with the evolution of the TV industry. At an investor conference in New York City, Mr. Bewkes said, that if HBO, his company’s leading cable network, becomes “overly hindered by having it only available to you in $60, $80 or $100 packages,” it might be made available outside the traditional cable-channel packages.

Time Warner reported recently on its expectation of a 1.5 million loss of HBO subscribers this year. Many investors have begun to view Netflix Inc., the online video and DVD-by-mail provider, as a competitor to HBO, and have expressed concern about the financial impact of the online video service on TV networks business. Mr. Bewkes has argued against media companies selling the rights to their own movies to low-cost services like Netflix, claiming that they are working against their own financial interests. He said that when Time Warner’s own distribution deal with Netflix comes up for renewal, the company may mandate a longer delay time before its video content can be made available by Netflix.

Job Gains for Small Businesses

William-DunkelbergThe National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) announced on Friday the results of a survey indicating that small U.S. businesses had seen payroll increases last month. The November gain of .01 workers per firm depicts a very small change, but it nevertheless represents the first such growth for small businesses in two-and-a-half years.

This survey’s results, as well as other recent employment reports, indicate a strengthening of the economy for the fourth quarter, according to NFIB chief economist William Dunkelberg.

“Retail sales and income growth in October and November were strong, promising an even better fourth quarter economy. Bottom line, this means more customers and a reason to hire or re-hire workers, Dunkelberg said in a statement.

The Moment of Truth

A White House deficit-reduction commission has recommended mass layoffs of government workers – up to 200,000, or 10% of the workforce, by 2020, major cuts in military spending, and raising taxes and gasoline prices as the necessary components of a plan to reduce the U.S. national deficit. The 58-page document, termed “The Moment of Truth,” calculates that implementation of its proposals would results in a $4 trillion reduction in the U.S. deficit by 2020. The report found that while government spending had reached a post-World War II high of 24% of the GDP, tax levels had decreased to 15%, their lowest levels since 1950.

“We cannot play games or put off hard choices any longer. Without regard to party, we have a patriotic duty to keep the promise of America to give our children and grandchildren a better life,” the commission’s directors said. Democrat Erskine Bowles and Republican Alan Simpson, co-chairmen of the bipartisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, continued: “Our challenge is clear and inescapable: America cannot be great if we go broke.”

The report is non-binding and is not expected to gain the 14 out of 18 commission members’ votes required to issue a formal recommendation to the President and Congress. But the report is expected to influence future discussions regarding the national budget and debt levels.