With online sales booming, an influx of Black Friday customers led to many items on Walmart's site being sold out. Here's what the controversy means for big box retailers' e-commerce:
I went on MSNBC to talk about what to expect this Black Friday. As I said in an earlier blog post, this year's Black Friday is more of a "Grey November" and more people are starting to do their shopping online starting September 30th. One difference in this year's Black Friday is the uptick in app usage to find good deals. People are using apps like RetailMeNot to show price differentiation to make sure they're paying the best price possible. Apps like RetailMeNot are able to check which discounts are going on at which stores, and then offer coupons to users to get even better deals. Clearly the Internet Age and the ability to research beforehand is having an effect on consumer behavior—smarter purchase decisions are just a click or an app download away!
40 million. 70 million. Now close to 110 million customers of Target ($TGT) have not received word their personal data including financial information, phone numbers and home addresses are now in the hands of overseas hackers. Sound like a scene from Girl with a Dragon Tattoo? The executives at Target only wish. Right now the retailer is getting ready for a congressional probe into their consumer protection practices. This is a run down of what you should know (source: Reuters):
What is happening: Democratic members of the Financial Services Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives are calling for the panel to investigate the hacking of credit card data belonging to millions of customers of Target Corp stores.
The letter said a hearing should review current consumer protection laws and determine what could be done to ensure the future security of consumers' card information.
Quote from the letter: "It is incumbent upon our Committee to explore whether industry data protection standards are appropriate, and examine whether heightened regulatory standards are needed to more effectively protect consumers," the Democrats wrote.
What that means: Congress wants to figure out if Target was in violation of failing to effectively protect the consumer.
Hearing is supposed to be scheduled for late January.
What can we expect out of the hearing: Would allow for an airing of grievances and potentially bring Target officials to Washington for a grilling about how the case has been handled, they would not necessarily result in taking any kind of action or in legislation.
In addition: The Federal Trade Commission, the Securities and Exchange Commission and state attorneys general would potentially look into Target's actions in this situation.
The FTC does not confirm or deny the existence of ongoing investigations and would only get involved if Target is shown to have failed to protect its customers' data.
Target has said it is working in partnership with the Secret Service, the lead agency involved in the data breach case, and the Department of Justice but did not comment on any FTC involvement
Why do we care/why is this important: Not real Federal regulation on the retail side when it comes to security and consumer protection.
A bill by Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy remains the only data security bill on tap for now-- THAT'S THE ONLY BILL THAT EXISTS!
FTC has the power to investigate companies’ privacy and information security policies and ensure that they meet proper standards, it has asserted.
It has previously brought cases against companies that it determined didn’t do enough to protect consumer data, and Blumenthal suggested it should consider doing so again.
QUOTE: “Given the scope and duration of Target’s recent data breach, it appears that Target may have failed to employ reasonable and appropriate security measures to protect personal information,” Blumenthal wrote. “If Target failed to adequately protect customer information, it denied customers the protection that they rightly expect when a business collects their personal information. Its conduct would be unfair and deceptive, and it would clearly violate the FTC Act.”
Additional info on $TGT you as a consumer should know:
Point of sale: As a merchant, you’d better make sure shoppers trust that they’re not exposing themselves to identity theft and credit-card fraud every time they swipe. Even Target, a huge company with big bucks to spend on security, hasn’t managed to assure such certainty (source: Bloomberg BusinessWeek)
Methods hackers use to get information:
Skimming: Attaching a physical device to a machine to gather information
"RAM Scraping": "Random Access Memory" Malware scans computer system's memory for personal information.
U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (U.S.-CERT), a cyber watchdog that’s part of the Department of Homeland Security.
Target has not disclosed how malware got into the system
Whenever I have a TV or radio appearance the first thing I hear is this: "Why didn't you tell me? I would have tuned in!" This is mostly from family members who don't follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Pintrest + refuse to use e-mail or cell phones. So to make life easier (and to spare you the incessant twittering + facebook updates/calls/smoke signals asking you to tune in), here is my schedule of appearances for the week which is taken from my weekly email to a group of tech savvy close friends and family. I hope you get a chance to watch and as always feel free to join the Black Friday discussion by emailing me or sending me a note on Facebook/Twitter. Or better yet, go analog and CALL ME. Sheesh. Wednesday November 21nd @ 11:30 am ET on MSNBC: Pre-Black Friday- what you need to know, what numbers is the National Retail Federation expecting for online and offline sales AND what is going on with that Wal-mart labor dispute?
Thursday November 22nd @ 7:00am ET on MSNBC: Cyber Monday- with so many retailers trying to take market share away from Amazon, how much to online sales really count? What can we expect for post Black Friday?
Friday November 23rd @ 5:30 am ET on CBS WOR 710 AM talk radio: Black Friday? More like "Black Quarter." Why retailers feel the need to start promotions in October and will that help sales?
THEN @7:15 am ET on FOX 5 Good Day NY: Mobile shopping and Black Friday: The best apps to use while trolling through the stores.
AND RIGHT AFTER THAT HIT: @ 8:30 am ET on MSNBC: Black Friday- how much are "Fiscal Cliff" and Super Storm Sandy fallout going to have an impact on shopping and consumer sentiment looking forward?
Saturday November 24th @7:20 am ET and 1:20pm ET on MSNBC: "3 Big Money Headlines." Can you guess what we are going to talk about? Black Friday, housing starts and $AAPL stock volatility.
Oh hi. Yes I know I've been away from the blog for a while and with good reason. With Black Market Billions off to an awesome start, I've been asked to write more books (3 to be exact). I've also been soul searching. Details for all projects including my "summer of Hitha" TK, but first let's get to Best Buy. This is a retailer I've been following closely since 2010. Why? Because it was once the star of the S&P and one of the bellwether retail stock. Um, not any more. Former Best Buy CEO, Brian Dunn made some pretty crap choices in the merchandising, product mix and overall sales strategy of the store. The result? Shoppers now go to Best Buy (which was once a destination to PURCHASE all things electronic and tech) to price compare. Sales have been slowly dropping off. And internet superstore Amazon is taking market share away from Best Buy. So here's a question- do you go to Best Buy only to price compare? If you do you aren't alone and Best Buy executives are finally cluing in. Here's the thing- they don't think there is anything WRONG with the idea of "showrooming." In fact, when new CEO Hubert Joly presented his five step plan to get the company back on track at the investor day, showrooming was one area he wanted to focus on. Question is-- will it help or is it a case of "too little, too late?" The awesome Jeff Macke host of Yahoo! Finance show Breakout and I agree- the concept of a showroom is quickly becoming a thing of the past. And Best Buy better realize that-- FAST.
No, I'm not talking about (from what I hear) the lack of dating options for the single ladies here in NYC, sillies. I'm talking about how men are getting back out there and shopping! According to an October survey conducted by BIGresearch, men plan to spend about 3 percent more than they did in 2009; women plan to spend about 1 percent less. On Black Friday of 2010, men spent on average $100 more than women- about $417 during the weekend (source: NRF). Why the surge in spend? Well, men are overall more optimistic about the economy. They feel overall that their finances will improve, while women are a bit more pessimistic. Two years ago (right when the recession began) both men and women were equally pessimistic. What's exciting is seeing retailers respond to the surge in male shoppers. $JCP and $SKS reorganized their menswear sections trying to appeal to the male 25-45 demographic. $SKS generates 14% of its sales from the mens department and $COH is also getting on the band wagon-- they opened two stand alone mens stores stocked with $198 messenger bags and $798 jackets. And PS, those items are pretty much sold out. Above is my segment on CNBC's "Power Lunch" talking about the return of the male...
I find it strange how 99% of retailers are scrambling to get the consumer to start spending and build customer loyalty through rewards programs, etc., (Eye on you Amazon (AMZN), Target (TGT) and Best Buy (BBY)) meanwhile they have some of the worst return policies on the planet! This morning I discussed the best and worst return policies on NPR's "The Takeaway." Really JCrew (JCG)? Are you REALLY not going to let me return a sale item for a full refund? Ugh. Here are my notes from the interview:
What do you think is the ideal/fair return policy? I think a full refund (which very few stores rarely do) is fair, OR return/exchange a gift without a reciept which is what H&M is doing. Target (TGT) is also sort of doing that just as long as the price of gift does not exceed $70 in one year.
What do you think is an unfair policy?
Definitely "final sale" at J Crew (JCG) on sale items. What is that all about? Also,
Amazon (AMZN) has 29 different product-specific return policies in addition to it's regular one for example: -most unopened items can be returned within 30 days -items they do not accept back: Hazardous materials, Kindles (after 30 days), downloadable software products, gourmet baskets, health and beauty products, some jewelry AND If the value is $75 must have a tracking method, items at $500 must be insured. If you are missing orgininal documentation, there will be a 15% re-stocking fee. Annoying!
JC Penny (JCP) requires special occasion dresses to be returned with the "return tag" still in place which prevents people from wardrobing i.e., buying wearing once, and then returning it.
Overstock.com has a 60% restocking fee for some open used or late items.
Office Max will not accept returns of opened cameras and software unless it is defective.
I don't think a lot of people are fully aware of these return policies at these stores.
What kind of the hardest items to return? Undergarments, swimsuits, software, electronics (due to restocking fees, shorter time to return the item and sometimes stores won't take them back at all).
If I have to retun a gift for a store online do you have suggestions on how to make this return as EASY as possible? Do your research- most stores do not post their return policies for example, Best Buy lengthened its holiday return period for most items by one to three weeks (until Jan. 31st) but computers still have their 14 day return policy so computer bought on Black Friday can not be returned.
Ask about re-stocking fees: If an item is open add the fee, 30% from Overstock.com, Macys, 15%
Be aware of the tier method (what Amazon and Best Buy (BBY) are doing) : apparel that might have a different date you can return at vs. different than electronics
Buy things on your credit card in case you lose your reciepts: I tend to have about 1,000 slips of paper in my wallet/handbag and the most important reciepts get lost in the tsunami of paper. If you put purchases on your credit card the retailer can pull it up your purchase more quickly.
I have my own method to my madness for Black Friday shopping tonight (I have the most amazing assistant ever who created a map for me, Seth and Sarah Mary plus a KEY for each store we are hitting) but I came across these Black Friday shopping tips on the Best Buy web site and I love them. If you are venturing out tonight- these are incredible FYIs.
All right peeps- in case you were wondering when everything opens for Black Friday I made a consolidated list for ya. For those in NYC the Apple store opens at 12 am tonight with discounts on iPods of up to 30% (BUT if you really want discounts on computers I would hit Mac Mall's 96 Hour Sale). Also, Wal-Mart is open for 24 hours BUT door busters start at 5:00 am which include $3 nightwear $248 32 inch Emerson plasma TV, a TomTom GPS One 124-SE for $59 and DVDs for $3- $5. Babies R Us Sale Starts at 5:00 AM - Ends at 1:00 PM
Bass Pro Shops Sale Starts at 6:00 AM - Ends at 11:00 AM
Bealls Sale Starts at 4:00 AM - Ends at 1:00 PM
BestBuy Sale Starts at 5:00 AM
Cabela's Sale Starts at Midnight
Costco Sale Starts at 9:00 AM
Craft Warehouse Sale Starts at 6:00 AM
Gander Mountain Sale Starts at 6:00 AM
Gap Outlets Sale Starts at Midnight at Participating Stores
Half Price Books Sale Starts at 7:00 AM - Ends at 10:00 AM
Harbor Freight Sale Starts at 7:00 AM
Home Depot Sale Starts at 6:00 AM
JCPenney Sale Starts at 4:00 AM
Kmart Sale Starts at 6:00 AM
Kohls Sale Starts at 4:00 AM - Ends at 1:00 PM
Lowe's Sale Starts at 6:00 AM - Ends at Midnight
Meijer Sale Starts at 5:00 AM - Ends at 12:00 PM
Menards Sale Starts at 6:00 AM
Northern Tool] Sale Starts at 6:00 AM
OfficeMax Sale Starts at 7:00 AM - Ends at 12:00 PM
RadioShack Sale Starts at 5:30 AM
Sam's Club Sale Starts at 5:00 AM
Sears Sale Starts at 4:00 AM
Sports Authority Sale Starts at 5:00 AM
Staples Sale Starts at 6:00 AM - Ends at 10:00 AM
Target Sale Starts at 5:00 AM - Ends at 12:00 PM
Toys R Us Sale Starts at Midnight - Ends at 1:00 PM
Aw yea it's that time of year again! While most of you are gearing up for the Olympics of cooking in yer kitchens, I am gearing up for the Olympics of shopping both off and online. Instead of feeding you a bunch of nonsense deals on stuff you really don't care about, I've decided to ONLY give you the heads up on items I am interested in, i.e., flatscreens, cameras, computers and awesome luxe items. Just a little FYI, these prices go into effect in some cases on Thursday (Wal-Mart has it's stores open for 24 hours starting ON Thanksgiving) so be sure to check on line, etc., and I will try my best to give you a heads up on store hours via Twitter. Black Friday 2009! Let's go! (prices aggregated via www.blackfriday.become.com)
BEST BUY: Dynex 19" 720p LCD HDTV (Model # DX-L19-10A) - $149.99 Dynex 32" 720p LCD HDTV (Model # DX-L321-10A) - $299.99 * Dynex 40" 1080p 60Hz LCD HDTV (Model # DX-L40-10A) - $499.99 Insignia 42" 1080p 120Hz LCD HDTV (Model # NS-L42Q120-10A) - $699.99 * LG 32" 1080p LCD HDTV (Model # 32LH30-UA) - $439.99 Panasonic Viera 50" 1080p Plasma HDTV (Model # TC-P50U1) w/Blu-ray Disc Player (Model # DMP-BD60K) - $999.98 Samsung 32" 1080p LCD HDTV (Model # LN32B530P7F) - $497.99 Samsung 32" 720p LCD HDTV (Model # LN32B360C5D) - $397.99 Samsung 40" 1080p 60Hz LCD HDTV (Model # LN40B500P3FXZA) - $597.99 Samsung 42" 720p Plasma HDTV (Model # PN42B400P3DXZA) - $547.99 Samsung 46" 1080p 120Hz LED HDTV (Model # UN4686000VF) - $1599.99 * Samsung 46" 1080p LCD HDTV (LN46B500P3FXZA) - $847.99 Samsung 50" 1080p Plasma HDTV (Model # PN50B530S2F) - $897.99 Samsung 50" 720p Plasma HDTV (Model # PN50B430P2D) - $697.99 Sony 32" 720p 60Hz LCD HDTV (Model # KDL32L504) - $377.99 Sony 40" 1080p 60Hz LCD HDTV (Model # KDL40S504) - $662.99 Sony 46" 1080p 60Hz LCD HDTV (Model # KDL465504) - $852.99
Sharp 42" 1080p LCD HDTV A2863297 - $599.00 Vizio 55" LCD HDTV With Blu-Ray Player Bundle Sony BRAVIA 40" LCD HDTV A2543748
K-MART Element 26" LCD HDTV (Model # 26LE30Q) - $249.99 Panasonic 42" 720p Plasma HDTV (Model # TC-P42C1) - $549.99 Sony Bravia L Series 32" Class 720p LCD HDTV (Model # KDL32L504) - $379.99 *
KOHL'S 19" LCD HDTV w/Built-in DVD Player - $199.99 * Digital Labs 7 Inch Portable LCD TV - $69.99 *
MEIJER: Sylvania 19" Class LCD HDTV - $129.99 * Sylvania 42" 1080p LCD HDTV - $499.99 *
OFFICE DEPOT: Digital Prism 7" Portable LCD TV ATSC710 - $84.99 Samsung 19" Widescreen LCD HDTV 933HD - $199.99 Samsung 23" Widescreen LCD HDTV 2333HD - $249.99 Samsung 26" Widescreen LCD HDTV T260HD - $299.99
RADIO SHACK: AOC 22" 720P LCD HDTV - $199.99 Auvio 3.5" Pocket Digital TV - $79.99 Auvio 7" Portable TV - $119.99 Samsung 32" LCD HDTV - $399.99
SEARS: AOC 32" Full HD LCD TV - $379.99 Audiovox Under Cabinet Kitchen 7" LCD DVD Clock Radio - $179.99 Eviant 7" Hand Held TV - $89.99 LG 55" LCD HDTV (Model 55LH40) - $1499.99 Panasonic 42" Class Plasma HDTV - $649.99 -Doorbuster! Panasonic 54" Plasma HDTV (Model #TC-P54G10) - $1499.99 Proscan 40" Class LCD HDTV (Model #40LC45Q) - $539.99 -Doorbuster! Samsung 22" Class LCD HDTV (Model #LN22B350) - $249.99 -Doorbuster! Samsung 40" Class 1080p LCD HDTV (Model #LN40B500) - $599.99 -Doorbuster! Samsung 40" LED HDTV UN40B6000 - $1399.99 Samsung 42" Plasma HDTV PN42B400 - $549.99 Samsung 46" 1080P Class LCD HDTV (Model LN46B500) - $899.99 -Doorbuster! Samsung 46" Class LCD HDTV (Model LN46B650) - $1309.99 -Doorbuster! Samsung 46" LED HDTV (Model UN46B6000) - $1599.99 Samsung 50" Class Plasma HDTV (Model PN50B430) - $699.99 -Doorbuster! Samsung 50" Plasma HDTV (Model PN50B530) - $899.99 Samsung 52" LN52B530 LCD HDTV - $1299.99 Samsung 55" LED HDTV (Model UN55B6000) - $2469.99 Sharp 19" Class LCD HDTV (Model LC19SB27UT) - $179.99 -Doorbuster! Sony 32" Class LCD HDTV (Model KDL-32L504) - $379.99 -Doorbuster! Sony 40" Class LCD HDTV (Model KDL40S504) - $664.99 -Doorbuster! Sony 46" Class LCD HDTV (Model KDL-46S504) - $854.99 -Doorbuster! Sony 46" LCD HDTV (Model KDL46V5100) - $1239.99 Sony 52" LCD HDTV (Model KDL52V5100) - $1599.99 Toshiba 40" 1080P Class LCD HDTV (Model 40RV525U/R) - $589.99 -Doorbuster! VIZIO 32" ECO HDTV (Model VO320E) - $349.99 Zenith 42" Class Plasma HDTV (Model #Z42PO2) - $499.99 -Doorbuster!
STAPLES: Samsung 23" 2333HD TV/Monitor Combo - $249.98
TARGET: Apex 40" Full HD LCD TV - $449.00 * Haier 7 Inch Portable Digital TV - $79.99 Westinghouse 32" LCD HDTV - $246.00
WALMART: Emerson 32" LC320EMFX LCD 720P HDTV - $248.00 * Emerson 42" PL-P42W-10A Plasma 720P HDTV - $448.00 * Flat-Panel TV Stand - $89.00 Philips Large Fixed TV Mount - $69.00 RCA 46" L46FHD37R LCD 1080p HDTV (Online Only) - $688.00 Samsung 32" LN32B360 LCD 720P HDTV (Saturday) - $398.00 Samsung 40" LN40B500 LCD 1080P HDTV (Saturday) - $598.00 Samsung 42" PN42B400 Plasma 720P HDTV (Saturday) - $548.00 Samsung 46" LN46B500 LCD 1080P HDTV (Saturday) - $848.00 Samsung 50" PN50B400 Plasma 720P HDTV (Saturday) - $698.00 Sansui 19" HDLCD1909 LCD HDTV - $128.00 Sanyo 50" DP50719 Plasma HDTV - $598.00 Sony Bravia 32" KDL32L504 LCD 720P HDTV - $378.00 Sony Bravia 40" KDL40S504 LCD 1080P HDTV - $598.00 Sony Bravia 46" KDL46S504 LCD 1080P HDTV - $798.00 *
Two more stations: KCOL Fort Collins, CO 0935AM ET KOGO San Diego, CA 1010AM ET
Hi all- If you are up and shopping (and in the car or walk around listening to the radio) tune into the following stations to hear me give my expert advice and tips on Black Friday:
KTRH Houston, TX 0702AM ET WSYR Syracuse, NY 0750AM ET KOA Denver, CO 0835AM ET WOAI San Antonio, TX 0910AM ET