SEARS HEADS TOWARD BANKRUPTCY

Sears, a Onetime Retail Giant, Reshaped America – The Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/sears-once-americas-biggest-store-collapses-into-bankruptcy-1539595803

At least some of the past or present Sears execs understood the problem. Sears cut costs improperly and diid not invests enough in the stores. Compared to other department stores, the customer experience was lacking at Sears.

Sears does have the potential for a future. But, it will need to consider what that future will look like. In Nearing the End, I give a plausible suggestion.

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NEAR THE END?

Sears Prepares for Bankruptcy Filing as Debt Payment Looms – The Wall Street Journal. https://www.wsj.com/articles/sears-hires-advisers-to-prepare-bankruptcy-filing-1539136189

The iconic once retail giant may be nearing its final stretch. Or maybe it can dwarf into a profitable condense form of itself. If the latter, it will need to find a way to develop and connect with a new target market not already retired.

At one point Sears dominated the retail landscape, largely because it was the first general retailer to market offerings for the entire family and the one willing to stand by its products. As the market change with new players, Sears never effectively captured a new market group.

If Sears does survive, it needs to have a narrower focus. One approach could be deconstruction of their retail concept by creating two distinct chains. One could be a clothing targeting people that may not be served by more trendy stores or a channel for professionals looking for everyday affordable clothes. Another would be an autonomous Sears Auto not tied to a store.

At this point, the Sears leadership team is probably focused on seeing how many tomorrows it has left. If there some, they need to consider what those days will look like.

THAT WAS QUICK

GE Ousts Flannery After Missed Targets https://www.wsj.com/articles/ge-names-new-ceo-replacing-flannery-1538392715

A company that typically values longterm stability in its highest office made a change after a single year. Large shortcomings in GE’s power division negatively impact performance as a whole, leading to John Flannery being out of a job.

GE is an iconic brand, whose once largesse scale made it a global giant, now struggles to provide stable returns for investors. After divestitures and restructuring, issues still remain, although its healthcare and aviation show positive growth.

Now, GE turns to Larry Culp, who now knows he will not have the long tenure afforded to Jack Welch or Jeffrey Immelt. Culp is former CEO of Dannaher and a lecturer of orgazational behavior at Harvard Business School.

Hopefully, Culp can lead the turnaround at GE that evaded his predecessors.

MAKING BAD WORSE

The Pension Hole for U.S. Cities and States Is the Size of Japan’s Economy https://www.wsj.com/articles/the-pension-hole-for-u-s-cities-and-states-is-the-size-of-japans-economy-1532972501

The realization that defined benefit pension plans are unsustainable is not shocking. The continuing issuance of such plans is the shocking part. At some point, change will not be a decision, but a necessity created by crisis.

People already retired or close to retirement should not be penalized. For others with time to adjust, employers must provide a different option for them. Also, people should consider bolstering retirement plans with personal savings plans as well to maximize retirement funds.

Kicking the can down the road only works if there is still road left. Big promises were made for short term gains with long term costs. Lets stop making a bad problem worse.

RATE SUBJECT TO CHANGE?

American Express Gave Clients One Rate, Then Secretly Raised It

SOURCE: WSJ https://www.wsj.com/articles/amex-raised-currency-prices-on-business-clients-without-warning-employees-say-1532943120

There needs to be greater transparency in rate setting. Whether business or personal account, how many people are aware when rates change? Some, but probably not many.

Should a sales manager arbitrarily adjust rates on accounts without any communication to the client? In my opinion, no. Establish rate parameters with sales teams, but do not adjust negotiated rates after the fact.

Bait and switch appears to still be alive and kicking.

TRADE RESILIENCE

China Is Losing the Trade War With Trump

SOURCE: The Wall Street Journal (OPINION)

China Is Losing the Trade War With Trump https://www.wsj.com/articles/china-is-losing-the-trade-war-with-trump-1532729725

Interesting take on trade wars, as standing up to trade manipulators takes resolve and determination. Since the Trump Economic Expansion should buffer much of the potential negatives, it is importance to continue pressing the Chinese to reconsider practices that harm their partners.

MOVIEPASS VS REALITY

‘It is a full blown war’: CEO of MoviePass’ owner HMNY on theaters

SOURCE: BUSINESS INSIDER

http://www.businessinsider.com/moviepass-owner-hmny-stock-price-ceo-says-war-with-traditional-theaters-2018-7

Moviepass owners might want to hit pause before it overplays its hand. In the presence of competition, customers have to consider whether or not membership is worth the service issues and new surcharge fees.

For instance, I recently attempted to use Moviepass at an AMC Theater and was one of many MoviePass users unable to complete the purchase. A few users decided to give AMC’s version a try. On the other hand, I chose to wait on customer service, miss my movie, and hope it reimburses me for the movie I had to pay out of pocket for.

AMC’s A-List offering may be double the price of MoviePass, but it offers almost the same experience with a company that has a better chance of still existing next year. Factoring in the surcharges MoviePass now charges, the value difference may be a wash.

The MoviePass idea is a great idea which brought people back to the movie theaters. Now with competition and service issues, it should focus less on power trips and more on consistent service and long term viability.

BALANCING TECHNOLOGY AND SERVICE

For many service based businesses, technology can improve access to customers and the customer experience. For both fast food and quick service restaurants, technology like Uber Eats, Seamless, and others can help a great deal in expanding the earnings for franchise owners. What is more convenient than ordering a meal with a couple clicks on a smartphone. For people averse to small talk, waiting in line, and interactions with the everyday person, this is essential.

The convenience and benefits of technology has its downsides as well. For instance, the satisfaction the customer receives for using the service only is positive if the order is delivered timely and correct. Personal experience shows that Uber Eats can be somewhat hit or miss with accuracy with simple orders to everyday restaurants. In fairness, the issue may be the provider or the delivery person. The customer will never truly know. But, people always hold the entity with the deeper pockets more accountable.

Another aspect is more operational, considering service to both online and in-person orders. In the span of a couple days, I had the opportunity to see two different restaurants, one a national chain and the other a regional one, struggle with the same problem. For both, the service line processed orders for both channels, which created a backlog of in-person customers waiting to be acknowledged let alone served. After every order, the cashier had to politely apologize for the delay, hoping to reduce the likelihood the customer would choose not to come back.

Many business are quick to pursuit new revenue stream before vetting and implementing the needed operational changes to accommodate changes. For order accuracy, the implementation of an order check at pickup by either provider or delivery person could reduce order errors. In service, restaurants may want to consider separating lines during rush periods to improve the in-store experience. Simple changes that could reduce occurrences of negative customer reactions.

RANKING SCANDAL

Temple University Fires a Dean Over Falsified Rankings Data

SOURCE : WSJ https://www.wsj.com/articles/temple-university-fires-a-dean-over-falsified-rankings-data-1531498822

The scandal is shocking at the level of manipulation, but not really surprising. Colleges do alot to make programs appear more appealing than competitors.

Prospective students should not factor ranking alone in deciding where to apply and potentially attend school, but also placement rates and salary statistics.

NYSE vs SEC

NYSE Opposes Trading-Fee Review, Putting Companies and Some Shareholders at Odds

SOURCE: WSJ

https://www.wsj.com/articles/nyse-opposition-to-trading-fee-review-puts-companies-and-some-shareholders-at-odds-1531320631

NYSE is strongly reacting to the SEC reviewing trading fees. Despite it stating the actions of companies are independent from it, the NYSE wrote the same companies urging it to take the actions it claims are independent from it.

If the review leads to regulatory changes, NYSE and others with the same policies stand to lose millions, which makes its fight understandable. But, does the fee policy create negative outcomes for investors? The program aims to find out.