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Zoom shares fall after results as Wall Street turns cautious on growth

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Zoom Video Communications Inc’s third-quarter revenue growth rate slowed to 35% as demand for its video-conferencing tools eased from the pandemic-fueled heights last year, sending its shares down about 6% on Monday.

Revenue was at $1.05 billion in the quarter ended Oct. 31, Zoom said, after rising 54% in the previous quarter and surging 360% a year earlier.

The stock, a pandemic winner, fell to $227.5 in extended trading, after having lost about 28% this year.

Moreover, stiff competition posed by Cisco’s conferencing tool Webex and Microsoft’s Teams has made it challenging for Zoom to win over enterprise customers.

To retain its users, the company launched a variety of new offerings such as Events platform, where businesses can host large-scale conferences, cloud-calling service Zoom Phone and in-office meetings feature Zoom Rooms.

“Their Rooms and Phone businesses are 5% penetrated or below and that seems to imply plenty of remaining runway for growth even within their existing capabilities only,” said Joe McCormack, senior analyst at Third Bridge said.

Investment bankers and analysts have warned that Zoom faces several hurdles in sustaining growth after its $14.7 billion bid to buy call center software firm Five9 Inc fell through.

Still, Zoom reported an adjusted profit of $1.11 per share, beating Wall Street’s estimates $1.09 per share, according to Refinitiv data.

The company also forecast current-quarter revenue and earnings above expectations, and raised its full-year revenue estimate to around $4.08 billion from about $4.01 billion earlier.

 

(Reporting by Akash Sriram and Eva Mathews in Bengaluru; Editing by Amy Caren Daniel)

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Black Friday draws U.S. shoppers but many shun stores for online

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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)

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WhatsApp wins approval to double payments offering to 40 million users in India – source

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WhatsApp has won regulatory approval to double the number of users on its payments service in India to 40 million, a source with direct knowledge told Reuters on Friday.

The company had requested that there should be no cap on users of its payment service in India.

Instead, the National Payments Corporation of India (NPCI)this week told the company it could double the user base to which it can offer its payment service – currently restricted to 20 million – the source said.

WhatsApp is owned by Facebook, which recently changed its name to Meta.

The source said the new cap would still hinder the company’s growth prospects given that WhatsApp’s messenger service has more than 500 million users in India, the company’s biggest market.

It was not clear when the new cap would come into effect.

WhatsApp did not immediately respond to a request for comment, while the NPCI declined to comment.

WhatsApp competes with Alphabet Inc’s Google Pay, SoftBank- and Ant Group-backed Paytm and Walmart’s PhonePe in India’s crowded digital market.

The NPCI gave WhatsApp approval to start its payments service last year after the company spent years trying to comply with Indian regulations, including data storage norms that require all payments-related data to be stored locally.

WhatsApp has almost reached its user base of 20 million for payment services, said the source, who declined to be identified as the details are private.

Online transactions, lending and e-wallet services have been growing rapidly in India, led by a government push to make the country’s cash-loving merchants and consumers adopt digital payments.

 

(Reporting by Aditya Kalra; Editing by Susan Fenton)

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Stores kick off Black Friday but pandemic woes linger – CP24 Toronto's Breaking News

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Anne D’innocenzio, The Associated Press


Published Friday, November 26, 2021 5:32AM EST


Last Updated Friday, November 26, 2021 3:16PM EST

NEW YORK (AP) – On this year’s Black Friday, things almost seem normal.

Malls and stores report decent-sized crowds, if not the floods of people that used to fight over the latest toys and electronics – online shopping is much too common for that now, and discounts are both more subdued and spread out over the weeks leading up to Christmas, on both websites and in stores.

But out-of-stock items due to supply crunches, higher prices for gas and food, and labor shortages that make it more difficult to respond to customers are also causing frustrations for shoppers.

The country’s largest mall, the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, reported overall traffic numbers at its opening on Friday were up by more than double compared to a year ago.

“We had a fantastic start,” said Mall of America senior vice president Jill Renslow.

Like many retailers and restaurants, however, staffing issues affected the mall and it had to trim the hours it was open.

Black Friday sales in stores and online were up 12% by mid-morning, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse, which tracks spending broadly across cards and cash. That was tracking below its 20% growth forecast for the day.

Overall holiday sales are expected to grow this year. For the November and December period, the National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail trade group, predicts that sales will increase between 8.5% and 10.5%. Holiday sales increased about 8% in 2020 when shoppers, locked down during the early part of the pandemic, spent their money on pajamas and home goods.

While Black Friday has a strong hold on Americans’ imaginations as a day of crazed shopping, it has lost stature over the last decade as stores opened on Thanksgiving and shopping shifted to Amazon and other online retailers. Stores diluted the day’s importance further by advertising Black Friday sales on more and more days.

The pandemic led many retailers to close stores on Thanksgiving Day and push discounts on their websites, starting as early as October. That’s continuing this year, although there are deals in stores as well.

At the Fashion Centre mall in the northern Virginia suburbs, window signs advertised 50% off boots at Aldo, 40% off full price items at J.Crew, and 30% off at Forever 21. At the Capital Mall in Olympia, Washington, stores advertised sales of 35% to 50% off.

Big retailers like Walmart aren’t blasting “doorbuster” deals in their ads, said DealNews.com analyst Julie Ramhold. Meanwhile, smaller chains like Victoria’s Secret and Gap are having harder time managing supply issues. Victoria’s Secret said recently that 45% of its holiday merchandise is still stuck in transit.

Supply chain hold-ups are a major concern this year, and both stores and shoppers are trying to find workarounds. Some of the biggest U.S. retailers are rerouting goods to less congested ports, even chartering their own vessels.

Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette said the company is prepared. “We are deep and we are ready,” he said, noting inventory levels are up 20% compared to last year. “We are in good shape.” But many sales floors looked different than in years past, when tall piles of merchandise used to be on display. At Macy’s in Manhattan, gone were the shoes stacked so high shoppers couldn’t reach them.

Fears of not being able to get the items they want helped drive people back to physical stores.

Tim Clayburn was shopping at Fashion Centre in Pentagon City, Virginia on Friday morning because he wanted to make sure he could get the gifts he wanted for his relatives.

“Everyone is so worried about not having things shipped to you on time,” he said. “I’d rather just get stuff in person so I don’t have to worry about the shipping.”

That didn’t work out for everyone, though. Christian MacDonald, the first person in a line of about 75 people waiting for a Costa Mesa, California Target store to open, came away empty-handed.

“I came here because I figured since it was Black Friday, they’d have the new Switch OLED in stock, but they didn’t,” said MacDonald, who waited an hour and a half to get in for the sought-after Nintendo video game console. “So I’m just going to go home, I guess.”

Still, experts believe Black Friday will again be the busiest shopping day this year. U.S. retail sales, excluding auto and gas, from this past Monday through Sunday are expected to increase 10% from last year and 12% from the 2019 holiday season, according to Mastercard SpendingPulse.

Several malls on Long Island were busier than last year, but there was no frenzy, said Marshall Cohen of market research firm NPD Group. In the Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, New Jersey, lines formed outside Pandora and Bath & Body Works around noon, while some small shops were largely empty. At Fashion Centre mall in the D.C. suburbs in the afternoon, Macy’s was jammed with people, making it difficult to move around the store, while Forever 21 security guards had to help clear congestion. Across the country, there were roughly three dozen people in line at a Denver-area Best Buy when doors opened at 5 a.m., said shopper Edmond Kunath, which he found underwhelming.

“It is amazing how small the crowd is here this morning,” said Kunath, who was looking for deals on Apple AirPods headphones and a hard drive.

Retail workers are worried about their safety because of frustrated shoppers and thin staffing, said Stuart Applebaum, president of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union, who said stores should provide security and training on how to handle irate shoppers.

One employee at the Zara in Fashion Centre, who declined to give his name, said the store seemed understaffed and he had been stressed all morning. “This is the craziest I’ve seen things in a long time,” he said. Zara’s store manager declined an interview, saying he was too busy.

At Macy’s in Manhattan, the pandemic remained in sight – employees wore masks and many shoppers did too – but there was also a sense of celebrating the fun of shopping, of things returning to how they used to be.

Carol Claridge of Bourne, England, has been coming to New York for Thanksgiving-week shopping for 15 years, but skipped it last year because of the pandemic. The U.S. reopened to travelers from the U.K. earlier in November when it lifted pandemic travel bans.

“We had to wait a long time to do this,” said Claridge, who was looking at beauty gift sets on the first floor of Macy’s with a friend. “We are picking up anything we see that we like. We call it our annual shopping outing.”

Shoppers are expected to pay on average between 5% to 17% more for toys, clothing, appliances, TVs and others purchases on Black Friday this year compared with last year, according to Aurelien Duthoit, senior sector advisor at Allianz Research, with the biggest price increases on TVs. That’s because whatever discounts available will be applied to goods that already cost more.

Aniva Pawlowski got to Macy’s just ahead of the 6 a.m. opening with plans to buy shoes and coats. Shopping on Thanksgiving Day had been a family tradition, but she stayed home last year and just shopped online. Worries about shortages drove the New Yorker to shop in person and she plans to spend about $1,000 on holiday shopping, similar to years past, even though she’s concerned about rising costs for gas and food.

“Everything is expensive,” she said.

Online shopping remains huge, and sales are expected to rise 7% for the week after the massive 46% gain a year ago, when many shoppers stayed home, according to Mastercard. For the overall holiday season, online sales should increase 10% from a year ago, compared with a 33% increase last year, according to Adobe Digital Economy Index.

“What the pandemic did for retail was, it forced them to be better digital retailers,” said Cohen of the NPD Group. That means the day after Thanksgiving is no longer what it was. “With that comes the shortfall of Black Friday.”

David Zalubowski from Lone Tree, Colorado; Parker Purifoy from Arlington, Virginia; Manuel Valdes in Olympia, Washington; Bryan Gallion from Wayne, New Jersey; and Eugene Garcia from Costa Mesa, California contributed to this report.

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