Wednesday, March 26, 2014

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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Winn Dixie Employee Reportedly Uses Coupon Codes to Obtain Money

An employee at a Winn Dixie store in DeLand, Fla. reportedly used fraudulent codes from coupons to obtain money from her place of employment.

Ibilola Badmus, of Sanford, Fla., was charged with grand theft of more than $20,000 according to Volusia County Branch jail records Price Compare-codes&tc=ar">The Daytona Beach News-Journal reported Wednesday.

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The incident reportedly cost the store thousands of dollars denting the retail location's revenue fund The News-Journal reported Wednesday.

Employees began to see a decrease in financial reports from the coupon use in February, which amounted in large quantities according to Brandon Haught, spokesman at the Volusia County sheriff's department The News-Journal reported.

Loss prevention officers tracked the transactions back to Badmus when they discovered her coupon activity which totaled $23,000 dating back to November.

Badmus reportedly acknowledged her activity stating she needed the money to fund medical bills from her ill child, which she said was $10,000 The News-Journal reported.

"An internal investigation revealed that it wasn't coupon-cutting customers causing the problem but rather an employee," Haught told The News Journal.

Employees then told the Sherrif's Office, and officers subsequently gathered evidence from the store, and questioned Badmus.

Three thousand dollars of the money was found in her bank account, which was given in to the Sherriff's office by Badmus's husband.

Winn Dixie has over 480 stores throughout Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, and Mississippi. Three hundred and eighty have pharmacies inside them in according to information on the retailer's website. The company also employs 63,000 people.

Winn Dixie offers a variety of different brands at its various stores. These include, Topcare, Paws, Fisherman's Wharf, Chek, Prestige, Kuddles, Valu Time, Winn and Lovett, Winn-Dixie Organics and Naturals, and Winn-Dixie which has more than 2,800 products according to information on its website.

The stores sell meat, produce, bakery, deli, floral, and kosher products.

Saturday, March 15, 2014


There is no other time of the year that compares to what is about to take place next week. That of course is March Madness and the NCAA Tournament. As conference championship week dwindles down to a close the NCAA Tournament bracket is quickly filling up as teams continue punching their tickets everyday. Presently there are 13 teams who have done just that by winning their respective conference tournaments.

As each year comes and goes so too do prices NCAA Tournament tickets which have increased each of the past three years. For instance in 2012 the average ticket Best Buy for the tournament was $215, in 2013 it went up more than 11% for an average price of $240 and this year its over $50 more than last year clocking in at a steep $292.

Getting a little deeper into the ticket data, we see that the East Region has an average price of $691, more than double the price of any other region. Currently, the West Region is averaging $287, the Midwest Region is averaging $263, and the South Region is averaging $226. Having a venue like Madison Square Garden hosting this year's East Regional is clearly driving up demand and ticket prices. If a team from the New York area, like Syracuse, ends up making it to the Sweet 16 in The Garden, expect to see that average price increase dramatically.

That astonishing average price of the East Region, up 114% from last year alone, is the highest of any we have on record with the next closest being the 2013 West Region which went for $342. In fact the East Region has such a high average ticket price this year that only the Final Four All Sessions ticket is the only one that is more expensive at $1,100 while a regular Final Four ticket goes for $641 and the Championship Game at $631. Ironically, the average price Final Four tickets this year is currently $641, with a get-in of $142, and is the only round that has a lower average price this year compared to both 2012 and 2013. Those two average prices for Final Four tickets were $723 in 2012 and $888 in 2013. This is most likely due to match-ups and fans of those final four teams driving up demand and price. Obviously, with this year's final four match-ups still weeks away from being decided fans are still waiting patiently to see if their team makes the big dance.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

SolarCity To Consult, Sell In Best Buy Stores

SolarCity ( SCTY) on Wednesday announced a partnership with Deal News Buy ( BBY) to launch in-store residential solar-panel consulting and sales in more than 50 of the retailer's locations.

"A SolarCity representative at each participating Best Buy location will be able to provide Best Buy customers with a satellite-based assessment of their home's solar power potential in minutes," SolarCity wrote in a Wednesday blog post.

SolarCity stock was up 6.5% in midday trading in the stock market today, while Best Buy stock was down a fraction. SolarCity, which carries a strong IBD Relative Strength Rating of 98, was trading near 78.30 midday Wednesday. It touched its all-time high of 88.35 on Feb. 26.

The companies also launched a website,, that as of midday Wednesday listed the program's first 52 stores, most of which are in Arizona and California, with a few in New York and one in Oregon. SolarCity says it plans to launch in 60 stores, including at least one in Hawaii.

Best Buy, which recently said it views itself as an online-first retailer, has had difficulty drawing consumers to its stores. At least some of the foot traffic in Best Buy stores is using the store as a de facto showroom for online retailers such as ( AMZN).

SolarCity says the in-store program is aimed at educating homeowners who may be "interested in solar power" but don't realize "that solar is much more affordable today than it was three years ago."

Best Buy stores have in the past similarly partnered with Google ( GOOG) to showcase the search giant's line of Chromebook computers. Many Best Buy locations also have in-store Apple ( AAPL) showcases and Samsung showcases.

Follow Kevin Shalvey on Twitter at @IBD_KShalvey

Related: First Solar Plunges On Q4 Earnings, Revenue Miss

SolarCity Stock Revives Before First Solar Q4 Report

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

'Threes!' Update Hits: Next Card Display Tweaks and The Ability to Skip Signing Added

<Amazon Deal Onlinep> Threes! [$1.99] has been glued to the top of its charts since release, and for good reason. It's an absolutely fantastic game, that has been ridiculously popular in our forums. Forum members have been sharing strategies, deconstructing the game, and even building bots that play it. It's been an incredibly phenomenon to watch unfold, and one I'm sure developers Greg Wohlwend and Asher Vollmer couldn't have possibly predicted when they were originally coming up with concepts for the game.

If you don't have it yet, you really should get it. If you do have it, rush on over to the App Store and download the latest update if your phone hasn't automatically grabbed it yet. It's got two major quality of life improvements for serial Threes! players. First off, you can skip signing your name at the end of every game, to get right back in to your Threes! combining action. Additionally, a "+" now appears next to the upcoming card if it's going to be more than three.

The "+" is going to be awesome, as previously when a white card was up next you hoped it was a three, but it could be a bunch of different numbers that can really mess up your board state. The new "+" display will hopefully make late game Threes! a little less frustrating as now players will know for sure if they're getting a one, a two, a three, or something more than that.

2 Threats to's Future Growth

When a company is expected to grow earnings by 40% plus over the next several years, any threat to this earnings growth should be carefully considered by investors. Though NASDAQ: Buy ( AMZN ) seems to want to be everything to everyone, there are at least two major threats that could hurt this company's potential.

A well-known issue everyone seems to ignore
There should be little doubt that one of the prime reasons many people shop online is to avoid paying sales tax at the point of sale. Though some believe that Amazon's competitive advantage is convenience, the economy of the last several years has taught many people to watch every dollar they spend.

It just makes good sense that if a consumer can buy the exact same product from Amazon and avoid paying sales tax they will do so. To combat this challenge, companies like Wal-Mart Stores ( ) are willing to continually cut prices to compete with their online counterparts. Though size clearly plays a part, Wal-Mart's U.S. sales growth came in at just 2.4% in the company's last quarter.

With over 4,000 locations domestically, Wal-Mart is probably a better proxy for the domestic marketplace than Amazon. However, there should be little doubt that the ability to avoid sales tax by purchasing on Amazon is hurting the physical retailers' sales.

Though some might believe sales tax won't be an issue, it's hard to ignore the obvious slowdown in Amazon's overall sales growth in concert with more states requiring sales tax be charged to its customers. Currently, 19 states require Amazon customers to pay sales tax. Not coincidentally, Amazon's worldwide trailing 12 month sales growth has slowed sequentially from 29% in the fourth quarter of 2012, to 24% in the fourth quarter of 2013.

As Amazon continues to expand, more states will certainly require sales tax to be collected, or a nationwide online sales tax may become law. This sales tax issue is a huge competitive difference between a company like NASDAQ: eBay ( EBAY ) and Amazon.

Most of eBay's sellers generate less than $1 million in out-of-state revenue, which would exempt them from collecting sales tax under the current version of the bill. In short, eBay could become a haven for tax avoiding customers.

With more than 60% of Amazon's revenue coming from general merchandise and electronic sales, this might be the most significant threat facing the company today.

A Prime concern
A second threat to Amazon's future actually comes from one of the company's most popular features. Amazon Prime members pay $79 per year for many benefits including free two-day shipping and streaming of thousands of instant video titles, this could change in the future.

Amazon has suggested that the Prime service may be too expensive to maintain the $79 annual price. If the company raised the price by $20 to $40 as has been suggested, Amazon could lose a significant portion of its membership.

In fact, a poll by Bizrate Insights of 200 customers found that 46% thought that the existing $79 price for Amazon Prime was too high. It's not hard to imagine these customers choosing to cancel their membership if Amazon goes through with a price hike of at least 25%.

eBay would seem to be a natural destination for jilted Prime members. The company offers a discount on seller's fees if they offer free shipping and meet certain criteria. Though eBay may not show the same type of revenue growth as Amazon, the company's Marketplaces business has consistently grown users at a double-digit rate, and its fixed price merchandise volume increased by 19% on a year-over-year basis.

In addition, if shoppers are looking for convenience, Wal-Mart's vast number of locations in everyday low prices could draw Prime members back into the stores. Wal-Mart could also one up Amazon at its own game by using its store locations as mini shipping warehouses.

Amazon claims that its Prime service has "millions of members." Imagine these customers having to choose whether to pay a higher annual price for Prime, while simultaneously having to pay sales tax on their purchases where they did not before. For a stock that still trades at a forward P/E ratio of more than 180, a continued slowdown in the company's revenue growth could mean the recent hit to the stock price is only the beginning.

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Digital discounter sets terms for $130 million IPO, a digital network of Amazon Sales, online coupons, loyalty card promotions and mobile coupons, announced terms for its IPO on Tuesday. The Mountain View, CA-based company plans to raise $130 million by offering 10 million shares at a price range of $12 to $14. At the midpoint of the proposed range, the company would command a fully diluted market value of $1.1 billion., which was founded in 1998 and booked $168 million in sales for the fiscal year ended December 31, 2013, plans to list on the NYSE under the symbol COUP. initially filed confidentially on October 25, 2013, and plans to price the week of March 3rd. Goldman Sachs, Allen & Company, BofA Merrill Lynch and RBC Capital Markets are the joint bookrunners on the deal.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Travel advice: when is the best time to book a flight?

Research from flight Promotional Codes comparison website this week claimed that the best time to book a flight for the cheapest fare was, on average, five weeks ahead of the departure date. The website came to this conclusion by analysing over 200 million searches and the actual prices paid by customers over three years.

The best time to book for Britain's leading summer destinations ranged from three weeks before travel for those heading to Greece and 21 weeks ahead for those going to the USA. Skyscanner found that those who booked at the optimum time for the USA saved £120 compared to booking during the week of departure.

The general rule is that: the more seats there are available, the cheaper tickets will be, according to Sophie Butler, our advice columnist. Therefore it pays to book early. However, if many seats remain available near to the departure date, which can happen for flights in non-peak, non-holiday periods, the airline may hold a seat sale, meaning that last-minute bargains can be snapped up.

It is worth considering though, that if you're travelling as a group or family and leave booking flights to just five weeks before departure, there may not be enough seats left.

Nick Trend, Telegraph Travel's consumer editor, said: "The best advice for when to book flights depends both on when you want to travel, and how flexible you are able to be.

"If you are a family who wants to fly during the school summer holidays on a particular date, you should certainly book now. If you leave it later there is a very high risk you will pay a much higher fare, and may not even be able to book the flights you want at all."

Final destination is important too. If you can be flexible about where you want to travel, you may be able to pick up a very good value fare close to the departure date. But if you have your mind set on a fixed destination, particularly in peak holiday periods (which may differ according to the location - December for the Caribbean, and July for Spain or Italy, for example) then you would be wise to book as soon as possible.

A spokesperson for Skyscanner said: "There may be other times throughout the year when customers might get a cheap flight and of course many people will be more comfortable booking further in advance, especially as prices close to departure can be quite volatile."

She added that if customers wanted to get the best deal, they would be best researching prices and tracking fares by signing up for price alerts, which allow travellers to see when low fares become available.

It also pays to compare fares using several price comparison websites before booking, as Donald Strachan, Telegraph Travel's technology expert, advises here.

In addition, the Skyscanner research looked at the average per person return price for Britons' top ten August destinations. They found that the average fare for Spain, for example, was £153. But again, there are so many variables even within travel to one country that it is difficult to give overall averages. For example, in Spain, flight prices to Madrid generally plummet in August due to the heat, but increase to coastal destinations such as Malaga.

Overall, there is no one fixed answer to when it is best to book a flight. The answer depends on multiple factors, including whether you are flying short or long haul, during peak or off-peak periods, and whether you are set on a specific destination.

Follow @TelegraphTravel

Friday, January 24, 2014

How Disney's 1942 Film Bambi Came to be Influenced by the Lush Landscapes of the Sung Dynasty

<chinese lunar new year cardsp>Pamela Tom, a documentary filmmaker, says she is still thankful for the chance encounter 14 years ago that led her to the now 103-year-old Chinese American artist Tyrus Wong.

She first heard his name in a short film included with the Disney home video Bambi that Tom watched with her young daughter about the making of the 1942 classic. Wong wasn't interviewed in the film, but the other animators spoke of his work with such admiration that Tom knew she had to find and tell the artist's story. She successfully tracked him down in 1998, locating the playful Wong in Los Angeles trying to teach goldfish in his pond to eat at the sound of a bell, and building kites and flying them off the Santa Monica pier.

Tom's mission to make Wong's story as familiar as the beloved children's film that he helped to create, is at the core of her new work-in-progress, the documentary, Tyrus Wong: Brushstrokes in Hollywood.

I'll get the chance to experience some of Wong's magic, when Tom is in town to present some of the artist's story and show excerpts from her documentary at two upcoming events: a fundraiser and dance at Paradiso Restaurant, in Alexandria, Virginia, on January 25 and a "Talk Story" program at the Chinatown Community Cultural Center on H Street, NW, on January 26.

While Wong's culturally-infused art, is largely unknown to the American general public, his Hollywood career spanned more than 30 years and his illustrations appeared in such iconic American films as Rebel without a Cause, Harpers, The Wild Bunch, and PT 109.

He got the job on the Bambi project by taking a bit of a gamble. He was a young artist employed by the Disney studio, but tasked with the entry-level job of finishing off the work of the animators and crafting the "in-between" animations that completed the characters' movements. Wong had learned that studio executives were creating a film from the new novel, Bambi, A Life in the Woods by Felix Salten. Tom says the young artist read the book and without consulting his supervisor, "took the script and painted all the backgrounds to set the mood, color and the design." His sketches recalled the lush mountain and forest scenes of Sung dynasty landscape paintings. His initiative paid off. Walt Disney, who was looking for something new for the film, was captivated and personally directed that Wong be moved up to an art director position. Today, top animators and illustrators revere Wong's work. Children today are as enchanted by the misty, lyrical brushstrokes of Wong's colorful nature scenes, inspired by his training at Otis College of Art and self-study of Sung Dynasty art and the Chinese alphabet, as they were in 1942. His work has been much admired in a retrospective on view in San Francisco at the Walt Disney Family Museum (Hurry in, the show closes February 2, 2014).

"Look at his Bambi illustrations, they look like Chinese paintings," says Tom. "He wasn't trying to be clever, just himself. What I found remarkable was that he was retaining his Chinese influence." And at a time, she adds, when it was difficult for immigrants to retain their heritage and be accepted as American.

"Now you see a lot of inclusion and diversity in life. For him it could have been a hindrance but it wasn't. He worked in film and fine art. He designed Christmas cards, and painted calligraphy on ceramics that were sold in high end department stores. His work is almost like Chinese-American art that he interpreted, made his, and [made] accessible to everyone else.

"One of the people in my film says what made his (Wong's) work so successful was that it was clearly from another country, but it was accessible and appealing to everyone," she adds.

Born in 1910 Canton, today's Guangshou, China, Tyrus Wong was nine-years old when he and his father immigrated to California. Their month-long detention at Angel Island offered the father and son a glimpse of what lie ahead for them in their new homeland.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Best, Worst Pre-Arbitration Deals in Recent History

With negotiations between agents, All-Star players and MLB teams, the Best Offer and worse pre-arbitration deals occur during the offseason.

Curious as to what exactly arbitration is?

In a J anuary 2004 article by Jack McDowell of Yahoo! Sports he simplified the meaning, "Arbitration establishes a system in which salaries from top to bottom are reviewed and adjusted to mirror those of equal players."

In other words, players that sign smaller contracts and become stars get a chance to have a contract reflect what they are worth. With the case of many young, top prospects, MLB teams have a security blanket in terms of a smaller contract. But, if a player does succeed their worth then many teams do renegotiate a contract before that player enters that arbitration period.

AP sports writer Ronald Blum highlights that "Arbitration-eligible baseball players get average 119 percent Raise" in a February 2013 article on Komo News.

Players like Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum gained hefty raises before having to enter the arbitration period. And in the case of Kershaw, who was eligible for arbitration in 2014, is expected to sign a contract extension worth $215 million, via Ramona Shelburne of ESPN on Twitter. Kershaw won't have to deal with arbitration coming up.

In comparison to both sides of Kershaw's deal strictly looking at MLB All-Stars, we'll rank the best and worst deals in recent MLB history.

Discount campaign tries to attract shoppers to Downtown Biloxi

Amazon Deal campaign tries to attract shoppers to Downtown Biloxi

Posted: Saturday, January 18, 2014 6:54 PM ESTUpdated: Sunday, January 19, 2014 6:54 AM EST


There is now an added incentive for both tourists and locals to do more of their shopping in Downtown Biloxi. The new campaign is called Doubloon Deals with the funding coming from a $100,000 BP grant.

After driving past Downtown Biloxi many times Clint Caldwell says he felt it was time to explore the area and its shops.

"We're from Ocean Springs and have never stopped," said Caldwell. "So we just decided to take Saturday morning and come to Downtown Biloxi and see the shops and things."

About 20 shops and restaurants are participating in the Doubloon Deals campaign. The way it works is people go by the Biloxi visitors center to get their doubloon then take the token to the businesses and receive a discount on their purchases.

"We've got a little map that goes with it. A new Downtown guide," said Kay Carter, Biloxi Main Street Director. "We often have people say 'I didn't even know this shop was here.' So hopefully it will bring a few people in the doors that didn't know it was there and a lot of shops, mom and pop shops, have a hard time offering discounts so this is just a way to give a little discount or an added incentive to come."

Some merchants said their incentive to take part in Doubloon Deals was the flexibility the program offers.

Gail Cheney is an artist with Gallery 782. "I think one unique thing about the program is right now our incentive is 10 percent off of one item," said Cheney. "But we can change that as we roll with the program to something that might work better for tourists or locals. We're hoping to get more locals too."

This push to get more local customers and tourists in the area is being paid for with a BP grant.

Carter said, "We were able to do this and purchase the doubloons and the advertising with the Deepwater Horizon grant. Also the downtown guides. We're putting kiosks in the downtown. So really trying to promote the area."

Biloxi Main Street officials said they are not sure how long the program will last but if it's successful Doubloon Deals may continue throughout the year. @

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Holiday sales gains may have come at a price

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The nation's retailers battled bad weather, a short holiday season, economic uncertainty and each other to drive a 3.8 percent increase in total sales across November and December -- but the gain may have come at the cost of profits.

"Undoubtedly, some of the increase came at the expense of margin," said Jack Kleinhenz, chief economist for the National Retail Federation in an official release Tuesday offering the Washington, D.C., trade group's assessment of the holiday period.

The group, which had projected a 3.9 percent increase in holiday sales, called the final results that drove $601.8 billion in sales a success. Matthew Shay, president and CEO of the retail federation, described the performance as a testament to a resilient industry that knows how to deliver. He also made the case that it's a sign the economic recovery is picking up steam.

But the hard-fought battles did damage along the way, with some chains notifying investors in recent weeks that fourth-quarter results would be weaker than they had hoped.

That included American Eagle Outfitters, where sales in established stores fell 7 percent during the nine weeks ended Jan. 4. In a presentation at an analysts conference Tuesday, executives for the South Side teen clothing retailer acknowledged that they'd seen profit margins slip and that reducing markdowns is Printable Coupons this year's to-do list.

"It was widely reported to be a knockdown drag-out holiday between retailers with deep discounts putting added pressure on margins," wrote Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics Inc. in Swampscott, Mass., in a report this week. If retail profits overall finish down for the quarter, he said, that would be the first such dip since mid-2009, at the height of the Great Recession.

Results were uneven across chains. Macy's last week reported that sales at stores open at least a year rose a solid 4.3 percent in November and December, while Target noted that its sales dropped after a massive breach of customer credit and debit card information was revealed just before Christmas.

Overall, the pacing of this year's shopping was uneven, which probably contributed to stepped-up discounts, according to Chicago consulting firm ShopperTrak.

Like the retail federation, ShopperTrak read the holiday season results as an indication that the economy is growing, but said a big break that customers took after the Thanksgiving weekend pressured retailers to offer even more deals. Bad weather early in the month didn't help, exacerbating the issue of only having 25 days between Black Friday and Christmas, compared to 31 days in 2012.

ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said, in his firm's report, that an improving economy should help profit margins. "As consumer confidence grows, there will be less need for retailers to heavily promote and discount their offerings."

Teresa F. Lindeman: or at 412-263-2018.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Hyundai Hopes New Genesis Will Boost Slow Sales

Hyundai is counting On Sales a revamped Genesis full-size luxury car to pull buyers from market leaders Mercedes and BMW and help the Korean automaker recover from two years of lackluster U.S. sales.

The 2015 rear-drive Genesis, unveiled Monday at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit, gets an all-wheel-drive option for the first time, making Hyundai competitive for luxury buyers in snowy locations.

It also goes high tech with an app that ties Google Glass headsets to Hyundai's Blue Link electronic safety, service and entertainment features.

Google Glass computerized headsets have been released to a limited number of early adopters. The glasses project text and images, and wearers can use voice, gestures or taps on a frame touch pad to give commands. People with the glasses can start their cars and unlock or lock doors remotely, find their cars in parking lots and search for points of interest or gas stations.

Hyundai's U.S. sales grew only 2.5 percent last year while the overall market grew almost 8 percent. A year earlier, the market grew more than 13 percent but Hyundai sales were up only 8.9. Hyundai blamed the slow growth on a lack of factory capacity to meet demand for some top-selling models.

For Genesis, demand was the problem. Genesis sales fell 4.8 percent last year in the aging model's final year. When the Genesis was introduced in 2009, Hyundai decided to sell luxury cars under the Hyundai brand rather than creating a new brand that would require more costly marketing. It's sticking with that philosophy with the new model.

Here are some highlights of the 2015 version, which will hit showrooms in the spring:

INSIDE: Hyundai claims the passenger compartment is the best in its class with 123 cubic feet of volume including the best headroom and rear shoulder room. BMW's 5-Series, the market's top seller, has 116 cubic feet, while the Mercedes E-Class has 113.1, according to Hyundai. The Genesis gets a simplified instrument panel with a more intuitive layout. It has storage bins for mobile electronic devices.

OUTSIDE: Large trapezoid-shaped front grille with horizontal bars. Aggressive looking hood and front lights, with a center-hood bump set off by creases. Sloped back end that leads to LED tail lamps. New chassis that's more rigid than current model for better handling. Optional all-wheel-drive. Aluminum front shock towers to cut weight.

UNDER THE HOOD: Two updated engines, 5-Liter V-8 with 420 horsepower and a 3.8-Liter, 311 horsepower V-6. Both are mated to an eight-speed automatic transmission for better efficiency.

GAS MILEAGE: Not released. Current V-6 version gets up to 27 mpg on highway.

PRICE: Hyundai says it will be under $40,000. Current model starts at $35,200 including shipping.

CHEERS: Costs less than competitors, giving drivers a lot of technology and features for the money.

JEERS: Hyundai name doesn't have the prestige of competitors such as BMW or Mercedes.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Tesco announces slump in sales for Christmas period

Australia rescue death father named new

A man who died after rescuing his two children from drowning in strong currents at an Australian beauty spot has been named.

Total in bid to locate UK shale gas new

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Opinion: Teletoons 2013: Topical and political cartoons from Belfast Telegraph

Irvine's fast food parties


Tesco, with 51 stores across Northern Ireland and 8,800 employees, saw a 2.8% drop in sales throughout the UK over the festive period

Christmas proved a struggle for Northern Ireland's second biggest employer as the growing competition from rivals and difficult overseas markets took its toll.

Tesco, which has around 8,800 employees across 51 stores in Northern Ireland, saw its like-for-like sales in the six weeks to January 4 across all its UK stores fall by 2.8% Review a same-store basis, excluding fuel.

The company blamed the comparative effect of strong sales in 2012 and a declining grocery market in the UK on the decline, but it comes only a day after Sainsburys revealed its Christmas sales increased in its "best ever" festive period.

"We continued to invest in the most compelling offer for the tens of millions of customers who chose to shop with us this Christmas, but further weakness in the grocery market as a whole continued to impact our performance in the UK, chief executive Philip Clarke said.

"Our ongoing work to 'Build a Better Tesco' in the UK is driving continued improvements for customers, although the effects are being masked in the short term by the strategic changes we have made to improve the long-term sustainability of our business - the transformation of our general merchandise business and the significant reduction in our new store opening programme."

Another significant player on the Northern Ireland retail scene, Marks & Spencer also revealed its results yesterday, and although it posted an apparently better picture than Tesco, it struggled to impress investors.

Total trading for both its food and general merchandising division rose in the eight weeks to January 4 by 1.5% but on a like-for-like basis, excluding new stores, sales fell 0.2%.

Once again, its clothing division failed to counter a 10-quarter decline, falling 2.1%, but sales in the food division grew by 1.6% over the same period.

"We delivered an improved performance in general merchandise over the important Christmas period, with sales up 1.5% in a highly promotional market," Marc Bolland, M&S chief executive commented.

He added: "However, an exceptionally unseasonal October, which saw GM sales down strongly, has resulted in a quarterly performance below our expectations."

Marks & Spencer employs 2,400 people in Northern Ireland in 18 stores. Its third largest UK store is at Sprucefield outside Lisburn.

Paying a price for discounts

Analysis by Simon Neville

Both are retailers keen to offer top-end, high-quality clothing at affordable prices to affluent and aspiring shoppers.

However, the contrast between Ted Baker's and Marks & Spencer's Christmas performance couldn't be more different

M&S, which has been striving to offer more top-end fashion, saw its general sales fall 2.1% on a like-for-like basis for the 13 weeks to December 28, compared with a year earlier.

It introduced heavy discounting in the run-up to Christmas, with chief executive Marc Bolland defending the decision by pointing to rivals like Gap.

By comparison, Ted Baker steadfastly refused to introduce discounting until Boxing Day and benefited from the move as sales jumped 18.3% in the eight weeks to January 4. The equivalent M&S period saw general merchandise sales rise just 1.5%.

Chief executive Ray Kelvin said the good results reflected "the strength of the brand, quality and design of our product".

A time for retailers to take stock

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

New York to get reprieve from ice-cold weather Wednesday with 20-degree 'warm-up'

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Commuters brave the frigid temperatures Tuesday morning when the wind chill made it feel like 10 below.

Relief is on the way from the record cold that turned New York City into an icebox Tuesday - if you can call 20-degree weather com nyc relief.

"After today we're going to be on a warming trend," said meteorologist Joe Pollina of the National Weather Service. "Tomorrow the high will be in the 20s, as opposed the teens today."

But wait, said Pollina, it gets better.

"By Thursday, it will be just above freezing in most places in the city," he said. "We continue to warm on Friday, to the lower to middle 40s. By Saturday, we could be in lower 50s across the metro area."

And this brutal Tuesday, on which cold weather records tumbled for this date like dominoes across the city, will be a memory.

But, oy, what a memory.


That was cold comfort of a sort to the millions of New Yorkers who made the morning commute when the frost was at its fiercest, battling wind chills that got as low in the city as minus 18 degrees at LaGuardia Airport.

The coldest spot in the city was Central Park, where the 4-degree temperature reported at 9:39 a.m. shattered the 118-year-old record low of 6 degrees for this date which was set back on Jan. 7, 1896.

Record lows were also notched at LaGuardia Airport (4 degrees, old record of 11 was set in 1968) and Kennedy Airport (6 degrees, old record of 8 was also set in 1968).

There was also no reprieve from the wicked weather for the million or so public school students who schlepped to classes through the record cold.

Nor was there any break for New Yorkers who have to go outside to earn a living.

"Every time I'm about to go out into the street, I know I have to zip up," said Michael Bell, 48, of the Bronx, who spent the day carrying merchandise into the Gristedes in Chelsea. "You have to keep moving. It's when you stop that the cold sinks in."


Perry Edwards, a 47-year-old UPS driver, said stepping into warm buildings has been his salvation.

"You have to take breaks, that's the secret," he said. "I try not to expose my skin to the cold for too long. I go into buildings and warm up whenever I can."

His co-worker Anabeth Batista, 45, a Bronx mother-of-three, said she relies on "my hand and foot warmers."

"You can stay out there too long or you freeze and can't move," said a shivering Batista. "It's cold out there."

The face and ears of 50-year-old bicycle deliveryman Miguel Lopez were red - and as raw as the weather.

"I can't feel them," Lopez said as he parked his ride. "It's busy for us today. Everyone wants their food delivered. No one wants to come out."


Letter-carrier Trevon Hendricks, 25, of Brooklyn, said when he saw the forecast was for single digits he broke out the long johns. And he tried to look on the bright side.

"At least it's not Monday," he said. That's when people get the most mail, after the Sunday break. I spend a good four to six consecutive hours outside."

By the time Hendricks was wrapping his route, the temperature had inched up to 10 degrees with a wind chill factor of minus 10.

Jet Blue, which had halted flights in and out of New York City, Newark and Boston as the cold set in, also got back to business and resumed flying Tuesday.

The cold snap was caused by a "polar vortex" carrying bone-chilling Arctic air that started torturing much of the country's midsection earlier this week.

"It's going to get very cold, very quickly," Mayor de Blasio warned Monday, as the big chill began descending on the city. "We will get down to the single digits. With wind chill, we will be below zero in many parts of the city."


Sanitation workers were placed on 12-hour shifts. City workers were sent out to herd the homeless into shelters. The MTA and Port Authority braced for extreme cold. And the utilities brought in extra bodies in the event of power outages.

De Blasio was not exaggerating. The record low temps were accompanied by wind gusts of 50 mph that pushed the mercury even lower.

But all in all, New York City got off lightly.

Elsewhere in America, the freight train of frigid air was blamed for at least 15 deaths.

Airlines canceled more than 3,700 flights within the U.S. by late Monday, bringing the three-day total to more than 8,700 flights scrapped, according to the tracking service

The freezing temperatures came on the heels of a wacky weather cycle in New York City that started with last Thursday's snowstorm, followed by a brief warm-up which, in turn, was followed by torrential rains and more cold. Monday's high in the city reached a balmy 54.

And when dawn broke Tuesday, it was only 4 degrees warmer in Gotham than in Fairbanks, Alaska, where the temperature was a big fat zero.

Warmer weather is also heading to cities like Chicago, Milwaukee and Indianapolis, which have been in the deep freeze for days.

Sweet relief is also foreseen for cities not used to this kind of weather such as Atlanta, Nashville and Birmingham, Ala., where the temperatures were in the single digits earlier Tuesday.

There was even frost on the white sandy beaches of Pensacola, Fla.

Sunday, January 5, 2014

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Monte Mohr: Contingent offer not always the best for seller

Lori and Jeremy from Nolensville ask: "About 30 days ago we accepted an offer on our home from a couple moving here from Ohio. They still have to sell their home but they felt it wouldn't take long to do so. We accepted the contingent offer after being reassured that we would continue to have showings on our place and if we got an offer from a second buyer we could get out of the first agreement if the first folks couldn't close. The problem is, since accepting the contingent offer, we have not had any more showings on our home. Can you tell us what has happened? We were getting two to three showings a week, now we aren't getting any. Has the market changed? Please help!"

Thanks for your question, Lori and Jeremy. Accepting an offer contingent upon the buyers selling their home seems like an innocent thing to do. After all, it "seems" like you would have the Deal Today of all worlds. Having your home sold and still being able to possibly sell for more or better terms, etc. The problem is that when accepting a contingent offer like this, we have just put all of our eggs in someone else's basket.

You see, first of all, we don't know how sellable the buyer's home is, especially in this case, as it is out of state. We don't know how experienced their agent is, if the home is priced correctly, if they can even sell it for what it is actually worth, if it is being marketed well, etc.

Secondly, because of local MLS rules, Realtors must make any property "contingent" in the MLS system when there is an agreed offer of any kind, regardless of terms. When we do that, it highlights that listing in yellow. And most experienced agents won't show a contingent listing to their buyers and take the chance that their buyers may not be able to buy that particular home because of the other pending offer. As an agent, few things are worse than watching a buyer fall in love with a particular home only to find out that it is actually already sold.

I'm so sorry that you guys find yourself in this situation. And what I have shared was not to make you feel worse about the current situation. Only to help you understand why the showings have slowed and to better equip you if you ever find yourselves in this kind of situation again.

What I would recommend to anyone being presented an offer on their home contingent upon the future "sale" of another property is to simply thank that buyer for their sincere interest in your home and let them know that you would love to entertain an offer from them to purchase your home once they have a solid contract on theirs.