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Apr
05

My Old Self & New Self Kicking Cancer

Kicking Cancer’s Ass: After 20 Year’s Are We a Match? I Sure Hope So

Cancer sucks. We all want to kick cancer’s ass and kick it hard. I want to stomp on it and snuff it out but I can’t. I have lost family and friends to this disease and unless you are the luckiest person on earth so have you. The problem is most of us are not in the medical kicking cancer ass business. I don’t know about you but I’m just a useless Wall Street person sitting on the sidelines when it comes to this subject. I can donate, I can point my finger at the government to do better with funding and I can yell as loud as my voice allows but that won’t cure the disease—it will not bring back my family or friends.

A few years ago my adult self got angry that my options were limited to make a real difference. I realized I could not control the medical world but I could control helping the personal world of a cancer victim.   Little did I know that actions by my younger ignorant self would also make a difference. Here is my story and I hope it inspires your adult self or younger self to think about how you can make a difference.

Last Summer I cut 10 inches off my hair and donated it to Pantene Beautiful Lengths. If you know me or have seen me on TV my hair has always been my signature but seriously at the end of the day hair means nothing. I said goodbye to my long locks and never looked back. My friend Natalia did the chopping. I cried a bit when the scissors made their cut but it was not due to the loss of my hair rather my tears were for lost friends and family. I put my locks into a zip lock bag and sent them off hoping some little girl or grown woman would feel better when she received a chance to reclaim her physical appearance and say a little personal F-U to cancer. I can’t help with the medical side but I decided I sure as hell can help with the personal esteem side. That was one of the proudest days of my life. I realized I could actually help someone say F-U to cancer.

Fast forward a few months later I received an email from Gift Of Life. The email relayed I was a match for Bone Marrow Donation. I searched my brain and immediately was catapulted to my younger self circa late 90’s. I remember my younger self vividly.   She was at a UJA fundraiser and got in line to give a swab for the bone marrow bank. I gave a swab and moved on to the fundraiser bar and hoped to have a fun night.

Twenty years or so later and just having my hair cut off for cancer donation I read the email from Gift of Life. How could this be possible? After 20 years I am a match? Was my hair donation a karma trigger? My head was spinning. My response was yes, yes, yes. When I announced the news to friends and family some asked if this would hurt me? My response: If your sister, daughter, mother needed this how would you feel if someone said NO?

So here I am. My blood has been drawn. I know the profile of my-would be recipient. I say to her I hope we are a perfect match. And I hope together we will say F-U to cancer.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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Jul
15

Dear Amazon: No Anniversary Card from Walmart

Dear Amazon: Don’t Expect an Anniversary Card from Walmart

You have no doubt been up all night scouring Amazon’s Prime Day deals and you are now entering the zombie phase in front of your computer or smartphone. We can now officially say RIP to Black Friday but the competition is stomping its feet.
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Let’s be real—Black Friday went the way of the flip phone 2 years ago when retailers started offering deals at least one week before Thanksgiving. Last year the flood-gates opened up as many retailers canceled Thanksgiving Day altogether and turned it into just another day at the mall. In addition, Summer sales are not a new thing—Target has been running a Summer Black Friday sale for years. So why is Wal-Mart shaking its fist at Amazon’s 20th anniversary celebration by suggesting limiting big deals to Prime members is unfair? After all, Wal-Mart would never do such a thing to drive market share (however WMT is testing a $50 Prime membership of its own).

The answer is simple: Amazon continues to force the creep of gross margins at brick and mortar retailers around the world. Not only is the 800 lb gorilla stealing market share and forcing the competition to match prices (gross margin creep) but it also is forcing the competition to spend lots of shareholder cash on long overdue ecommerce investment catch up. In Walmart’s case 20% of customers are Amazon Prime Members while the discounter still only derives low single digits revenues from online

No wonder Walmart is stomping its feet, lowering shipping thresholds and following the leader.


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Dec
22

Omnichannel Shoppers May Be Omni-Disappointed

Just when retailers are saying, “hey look over here at online and forget about our flailing in store traffic,” FedEx (FDX) goes all Grinch today.

In its disappointing report this morning, the delivery behemoth suggested West Coast port issues are more significant than maybe retailers have been letting on.  That raises my Grinch red flag for retail stocks.

This callout is particularly interesting as we just finished the Q3 reporting season when very few retailers called out the West Coast port jams as a real issue. To be sure, only a few retailers cited delivery delays and those retailers were the ones you would expect to point to just about any excuse (ANN (ANN), Ascena (ASNA)).  So, maybe these retailers were not crying wolf after all?

The West Coast port delay raises two separate issues.

First, while mall traffic continues to decline maybe consumers show up and don’t find what they want. Second, I expect online penetration to be up as much as 500 bps year over year this holiday season.

If stock gets to distribution centers at the last minute, there is little chance that even omnichannel retail champions will be able to deliver. Throw in last-minute capacity issues at FedEx and UPS (UPS) (like last year) and Santa might have to wait for a thaw to come around. As a result, the consumer is omni-disappointed.

Can you say gift cards?

 


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Oct
31

Look No Further than Retail for a Halloween Fright

In honor of Halloween lets talk about what scares me for H2

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1.This year I am going to dress up as Sir Philip Green (Topshop founder) and scare US retailers to death.  If I don’t scare them on Halloween the opening of Tophsop Fifth Avenue will do the “trick”. For the teen and missy space I guarantee you this opening will not be a “treat”.

2.Analysts are all bulled up about declining gas prices. Reality is so far the extra money in your wallet hasn’t made a difference.  KSS WMT JCP GPS URBN have already “spooked us” with guide downs.

3.Someone needs to yell “Boo!” at retail estimates for holiday.  The writing is on the wall. Despite a slew of preannouncements street estimates have not come down nearly enough for the group. Even the most loved retailers might not be able to escape.

4.The mighty tourism dollar might dress up as the invisible man (or in my case I would settle for a Wonder Woman costume and fly in my invisible plane). Here is a scary reality: The mighty Asian spend has been holding up luxury comps in Europe and the US for a while.  With the dollar strengthening, major US Flagships might see that spend dry up.  I would also note that Asians are spending less in Europe and don’t forget the Russians are hiding behind a giant pumpkin.

5.And the most frightening Halloween thought of all? Don’t worry about the falling temperatures this weekend—watch out for the sound of falling gross margins (unfortunately TGT and WMT don’t sell that costume)

Stacey Widlitz, President SW Retail Advisors

 


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Oct
21

URBN: Fast Fashion is the Icing on the Cake

Urban Outfitters (URBN) just became the poster child for how a company should not to manage expectations after it has reduced guidance only a few weeks after an investor day.

On Thursday night Urban reported that comparable-store sales have remained negative into October. That shouldn’t come as a surprise if you’ve actually visited any Urban store during the quarter, as we’ve done, and have observed the chain’s heavier discounts of late.

In addition to a lack of sales recovery at the all-important Urban division — which the Street was expecting for some reason I cannot discern — margins will now miss expectations as well. It’s time to wake up and smell the coffee: The back-half-recovery story is over. Analysts are lining up to downgrade the stock this morning, but I would point out that earnings expectations are still too glass-half-full for a company in transition.

When Urban reports earnings, we will hear the usual excuses: weather; perhaps, even, Ebola.

But I will put on my fast-fashion cheerleading hat once again and tell you that teen retailers are simply getting their collective booty kicked by better and cheaper product coming out of Europe and in our own backyard — for instance, from H&MTopshop andForever 21.

Now throw in a company that is in the process of changing merchandising mix, changing its core customer and expanding store sizes (no, that is not a typo).

While Urban Outfitters is the best of the teen lot, it was only a matter of time until the brand would succumb to the same pressures that have already pummeled the rest of the group. That, again, is in addition to some serious transition risk.

I am sitting this one out.


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