Bargain hunters ventured out in chilly weather to buy Christmas gifts on Black Friday only to discover that many U.S. retailers offered smaller price markdowns this year amid tight supplies.
COVID fears and fewer “doorbuster” sales thinned crowds the day after the U.S. Thanksgiving holiday, which kicks off the year-end holiday shopping season.
On the same day, the World Health Organization named the newly identified omicron variant of the coronavirus as a “variant of concern,” triggering worldwide alarm and a selloff in the U.S. stock market.
Stores on Black Friday had the lowest level of clearance goods for sale in five years or more, Cowen analysts said in a note. Many shoppers chose to pick up merchandise curbside rather than venturing inside stores.
Black Friday retail sales are up 29.8% versus 2020 through 3 p.m. ET, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse.
Consumers spent $6.6 billion up until 9 p.m. ET on Friday, according to Adobe Digital Economy Index, which expected total spending of between $8.8 billion and $9.2 billion for the day.
Walmart and Target stood to outperform other retailers in part because of their buy-online-pick-up-at-store services, Cowen said. Target added more than 18,000 “drive-up” parking spaces, more than doubling spots versus last year. The company said its most popular Black Friday deals included $219.99 for a KitchenAid professional stand mixer that regularly sells for $429.99, and savings of up to $60 on Apple Watches and AirPods.
Several retailers – including Walmart, Target and Best Buy – are expected to post lower fourth-quarter profit margins because of tight inventory and higher costs for raw materials, freight and labor. “Even though the holiday season should be okay from a sales standpoint — because retailers are discounting less — the margins won’t necessarily be higher because of inflation,” said Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Kodali.
U.S. consumers are entering the holiday season flush with cash thanks to a still-hefty pile of savings from multiple rounds of government pandemic relief and double-digit wage increases as businesses compete for workers. Yet retailers had lured shoppers to make holiday purchases as early as September this year, because the supply chain logjam https://www.reuters.com/business/autos-transportation/containergeddon-supply-crisis-drives-walmart-rivals-hire-their-own-ships-2021-10-07 has prevented them from quickly replenishing year-end merchandise.
A Deloitte survey showed people had spent 80%-85% of their holiday gift budgets even before Black Friday. For November and December, online sales are estimated to hit a record $207 billion, up 10% from last year, according to Adobe Digital Economy Index. The National Retail Federation has forecast combined brick-and-mortar and online holiday sales to reach between $843.4 billion and $859 billion, 8.5% to 10.5% higher than last year.
Elver Gomez, a 21-year-old student in Chicago, said he didn’t find the Apple and Microsoft laptops he wanted while shopping at a Best Buy store Friday morning. “It seems like this year it’s either out of stock” or for sale at what he said was “not that great of a price.” Best Buy added a message to its website warning of “limited qualities” and “no rainchecks.”
Electronics – in short supply due to a global chip shortage – had the highest out-of-stock levels, followed by personal care, and home and garden, according to Adobe. Through most of November, out-of-stocks were up 261% versus 2019.
(Reporting by Richa Naidu and Arriana McLymore; Additional reporting by Lisa Baertlein and Maria Ponnezhath in Bengaluru; Editing by Nick Zieminski and Leslie Adler)
Ackman’s Pershing Square takes new position in Netflix
Billionaire investor William Ackman has built a new stake in streaming service Netflix Inc worth more than $1 billion since its stock price tumbled starting last Thursday.
Ackman told investors that his hedge fund, Pershing Square Capital Management, started buying on Friday and now owns more than 3.1 million shares in Netflix, making Pershing Square a top 20 shareholder.
In a letter to his clients, Ackman praised the company’s “best-in-class management team” and on Twitter the manager said he has long admired Netflix CEO Reed Hastings and the “remarkable company he and his team have built.”
Netflix shares climbed as much as 5% in after-hours trading. They had tumbled more than 30% in the last five days, a much steeper swoom than the broader market. After the market closed last Thursday, Netflix forecast weak subscriber growth.
Ackman, whose firm invests $22.5 billion, wrote that he had been analyzing Netflix at the same time he was investing in Universal Music Group and was ready to buy when Netflix’ “stock price declined sharply last Friday.”
“Now with both UMG and Netflix, we are all-in on streaming as we love the business models, the industry contexts, and the management teams leading these remarkable organizations.”
To raise the cash to make the Netflix purchase, Ackman said the firm unwound a big piece of its interest rate hedge which generated profits of $1.25 billion.
He said that if he had not sold the hedge, his performance would have been better. His Pershing Square Holdings lost 13.8% in the first three weeks January, the worst start to a year for the manager in years.
Last year Ackman posted a gain of 26.9% after the fund surged 70.2% in 2020.
Ackman said Netflix benefits from highly recurring revenues, adding the company has pricing power and delivers industry-leading content.
Pershing Square traditionally holds only a small number of investments which currently include Lowe’s, Chipotle Mexican Grill, and Dominos Pizza Inc.
He said these companies are high quality businesses that can withstand inflationary pressures because they are able price their products to preserve profits.
Netflix’ stock price surged during the pandemic as live performances were shut down and movie theaters were largely off limits.
The company has been a favorite with prominent investors before. Roughly a decade ago Carl Icahn, an activist investor like Ackman, took a 10% position in Netflix and thought the company might need to sell itself to a technology company as its shares were undervalued. Ackman, who has pushed other companies to perform better, appears to be approaching this investment as a friendly investor. “We are delighted that the market has presented us with this opportunity,” he wrote on Twitter.
(Reporting by Svea Herbst-Bayliss; Editing by Leslie Adler, Mark Porter and David Gregorio)
Casual denim trend, higher prices fuel Levi’s upbeat forecast
Levi Strauss & Co forecast annual sales and profit above analysts’ estimates after topping quarterly results on Wednesday, bolstered by higher prices and strong demand for its jeans and jackets, sending its shares up 8% after the bell.
People shopping for casual outdoor clothing as pandemic restrictions eased and a resurgence in retro fashion styles such as high-rise and loose-fitting jeans have buoyed demand for the company’s denims.
The Signature and Levi’s 501 jeans maker said it expects revenue between $6.4 billion and $6.5 billion in fiscal year 2022, compared with analysts’ estimates of $6.37 billion, according to Refinitiv IBES data.
The robust demand has, however, coincided with increased production and shipping costs, forcing companies to raise prices to offset the inflationary pressures.
Levi plans to raise prices further in 2022 and beyond, Chief Executive Officer Chip Bergh said on a call with analysts, adding that demand outstripped supply in the quarter due to supply chain snarls.
Lower promotions, more full-price selling and the reopening of its European and Asian markets also lifted the Denizen brand owner’s sales in the reported quarter.
Compared to pre-pandemic levels, Asia net revenue was flat in the three months ended Nov. 28, recovering from a 23% slump reported in the third quarter.
Net revenue rose 22% to $1.69 billion in the fourth quarter, edging past analysts’ estimate of $1.68 billion.
Excluding items, Levi earned 41 cents per share, a cent above expectations.
Holiday season sales came in above its expectations, the company said, in contrast to downbeat estimates from retailers including Lululemon Athletica Inc and Abercrombie & Fitch Co.
San Francisco-based Levi expects adjusted full-year profit per share between $1.50 and $1.56, compared with estimates of $1.52.
(Reporting by Deborah Sophia in Bengaluru; Editing by Vinay Dwivedi and Sriraj Kalluvila)
A third of airline pilots still not flying as pandemic drags on -survey
More than one-third of airline pilots are still not flying as the pandemic continues to take its toll on aviation globally, according to a new survey, though the situation has improved from a year earlier when the majority were grounded.
A poll of more than 1700 pilots by UK-based GOOSE Recruitment and industry publication FlightGlobal, released on Wednesday, found 62% globally were employed and currently flying, up from 43% a year earlier.
The proportion of unemployed pilots fell from 30% to 20%, while 6% were on furlough, compared with 17% previously as air traffic began to bounce back from 2020 lows.
But in the Asia-Pacific region, the worst-hit globally by a drop in international travel due to tough border restrictions, the proportion of those unemployed rose from 23% to 25%. The region also had the lowest number that were employed flying at 53%.
“We have … seen some expatriates return home from the region due to concerns over quarantine or being stuck for long periods away from friends and family,” the report on the survey said.
Hong Kong’s Cathay Pacific Airways, a large expatriate employer in Asia, has lost hundreds of pilots through the closure of its Cathay Dragon regional arm as well as almost all of its overseas bases during the pandemic.
Pilot attrition at Cathay has also been rising amid strict layover rules that leave crew members locked https://www.reuters.com/world/asia-pacific/locked-hotels-hong-kongs-covid-19-rules-take-mental-toll-cathay-pilots-2021-11-26 in hotels when they are not flying.
Of the pilots still flying globally, 61% told the survey they were concerned about their job security.
“It appears only Northern America is back to post-COVID passenger numbers,” said an unnamed captain flying in the Middle East and Africa. “The rest of the world, especially developing nations, are still struggling to get vaccines, and are still not travelling.”
(Reporting by Jamie Freed in Sydney; Editing by David Gregorio)
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