July 10, 2020

Media Decoder Blog: Disney Delays Release of Video Game and Toy Initiative

LOS ANGELES — The introduction of Disney Infinity, an ambitious video game and toy initiative, has been pushed from June to late August, a retail window that Disney said on Wednesday was more favorable.

But the delay also shifts Infinity from Disney’s fiscal third quarter to its fourth, meaning that any chance of a turnaround at the company’s video game unit will occur later than some investors expected.

Infinity will now reach stores on Aug. 18 in North America and on Aug. 20 overseas, said John Pleasants, co-president of Disney Interactive, in a telephone interview. A June rollout had been planned, pegged to the release of Pixar’s “Monsters University.”

Mr. Pleasants said retailers, impressed with the public reaction to Disney’s demonstration of Infinity in January, pushed for an introduction closer to the all-important holiday season, which starts in October. “The date became an issue in terms of them asking, ‘Is there a better opportunity here?’ ” Mr. Pleasants said.

There may also be competitive reasons for the August date. Disney hopes that Infinity will be its version of Skylanders, a popular product from Activision Blizzard in which players collect action figures and then transfer them into the game’s action by plugging them into a sensor base. Skylanders has generated more than $1 billion in sales since its 2011 arrival; about 100 million of its toys have been sold.

The next edition of Skylanders is scheduled to arrive in stores this fall. Mr. Pleasants downplayed comparisons, but said, “We think it’s good to be first and really lean into the most important selling season of the year.”

August is traditionally a quiet time for video games as families spend money on vacations and back-to-school clothes. But Mr. Pleasants said retailers were willing to devote significant shelf space to the Infinity product line. Disney also hopes that children will return to school with the Infinity action figures in their backpacks, leading to trading.

It is not unusual for video game studios to push back release dates, but the reason usually involves glitches and missed deadlines. Mr. Pleasants insisted that was not the case here.

“We could deliver in June if we wanted to,” he said, adding: “Will a two-month timing change help us? Sure, of course. It gives us a little more time to add bells and whistles and make sure it really sings and pops.”

Robert A. Iger, Disney’s chief executive and chairman, told Wall Street analysts and investors in May that “we’re targeting 2013 as a year of profitability” for Disney Interactive. He technically fulfilled that pledge in the last quarter; Disney’s video game and Web business turned an operating profit of $9 million after 16 consecutive quarters of losses.

But most people interpreted Mr. Iger’s remark to mean that the unit, Disney’s smallest by far, would make money for the fiscal year, which ends in mid-September. There is now little chance of that, as revenue from Infinity will be mostly pushed into 2014. “This will definitely impact our goal of achieving profitability for the year,” Mr. Pleasants said.

Article source: http://mediadecoder.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/03/13/disney-delays-release-of-video-game-and-toy-initiative/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Bucks Blog: Hello, This Is Your Gift Card Calling

Even though new consumer protections make it harder to lose the value on a gift card, it still makes sense to use any you received this holiday season as soon as possible. Those little plastic cards take be a pain to keep track of, and (unless they’re the electronic version) take up room in your wallet.

But do you really want telephone reminders from retailers about cards that may be carrying an unused balance?

That’s the question posed by a recent post on The Consumerist, the offbeat Web site now owned by Consumer Reports.

The post relates how a GameStop shopper, Michael, got a late-night robocall from GameStop, reminding him that he had a balance on his gift card. But he didn’t recall providing his phone number to GameStop in connection with the card, which was given to him, of course, as a gift.

He speculated that he might have used his GameStop rewards card when making a purchase using the gift card. But he said he didn’t realize that doing so would link his telephone number with the card.

GameStop hasn’t responded to calls or e-mails seeking more information about its policy on contacting gift card users.

The calls it makes may be a simple courtesy. (“We want to be sure you get all of the value left on your card!”). Or the store may be betting that when you go to use the last bit of your unused balance, you’ll spend a little more.

I think there might be times when such a call would be welcome — say, if your gift card’s balance was about to expire. But an e-mail, perhaps, might feel less intrusive. My daughters received several gift cards this Christmas, and I certainly wouldn’t want to get phone calls for all of them.

Have you ever received a telephone call from a retailer, reminding you to use your gift card? Would you find such phone calls helpful or annoying?

Article source: http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/27/hello-this-is-your-gift-card-calling/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Start: How Small Businesses Use Fiverr, TaskRabbit and Other Services


The adventure of new ventures.

In an article The Times has just published, I profile four young ventures vying to help shorten to-do lists for small-business owners this holiday season. Please chime in at the bottom of this post with your own experiences offloading tasks to services that promise to lighten your load. To get things rolling, I’ve reached out to a few small businesses that use the companies featured in the article. Here are their tales:

The Gold-Plated Vacuum Cleaner

If your business wanted to sell a $1 million gold-plated vacuum cleaner – or at least get people talking about it – what would you do? Commission a two-minute rap, of course.

That, in any case, is what GoVacuum did. In June, the company began a golden-vacuum campaign devised by Justin Haver, its vice president of sales and marketing. Mr. Haver’s boss agreed to let him try the weird stunt if he could keep it cheap.

So Mr. Haver turned to Fiverr, an online market for small services. There he found a rapper-for-hire to praise his deluxe dust-buster. For $5, Haver ended up with beats and rhyming lyrics that included, “It’s 24-karat. Man, I wanna marry it! Lifetime warranty: you’ll never have to bury it.”

For the same $5 rate, other individual Fiverr members created a bouncy pop song, a press release, a blurb for the GoVacuum Web site and a computer-adjusted image of a golden vacuum. (Haver used all these elements but the last, preferring a picture created by an in-house designer.)

The fabled vacuum earned international headlines and televised coverage on the Fox Business Network’s “Money with Melissa Francis” and “Live From the Couch” on WLNY, a CBS New York affiliate. Before he could meet the cameras, however, Mr. Haver had to bring his fictitious vacuum to life. That meant paying a visit to the gold-plater.

“At that point the story became so good, we had to do it,” Mr. Haver said. “It took several thousand dollars.”

But he hasn’t forgotten that the campaign started much cheaper, with a flurry of $5 tasks that added up to less than $100. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it without the Fiverrs,” he said.

Updating Online Listings From a Single Dashboard

Four years ago, Ivan Mladenovic didn’t want customers randomly dropping in to visit his computer repair and consulting shop. Who can blame him? He was running it from his kitchen.

When the company, Preemo, began to grow, Mr. Mladenovic moved it to a corporate office space. This summer, he expanded into a retail storefront in South Miami, Fla., and having customers stop by became a priority. Suddenly, he needed to change his business’s address everywhere it appeared online.

“We’re listed in every directory we can be in because of the nature of our business,” Mr. Mladenovic said. “There are least 80 or 90 directory listings for our business. And it’s a huge science project to change them.”

So he turned to Yext, a company based in New York that gives users a single dashboard to update company listings across more than 50 directory sites including Yelp, CitySearch, MapQuest and Foursquare. (That list does not include Google+ Local; Yext has been a vocal critic of Google’s business listings service.)

Yext also lets business owners add promotional content, like special offers and photographs, to their listings, and it alerts owners when customers post new reviews. The full service costs $499, billed annually.

“I justify the cost because it takes me about 20 to 30 minutes to update one listing, so if I’m updating more than 40 at once it’s a significant time savings on my part,” Mr. Mladenovic said. He also uses Yext to post deals on iPhone repair and other services. He typically runs a new special every two months, hoping that fresh offers will maintain customer interest.

“Our business is obviously an as-needed service. Nobody wakes up and says, ‘I want to fix my computer today,’” he said, laughing. “I want us to be top-of-mind.”

An Intensely Manual Process

When tasks multiply, Matt Brezina calls in the rabbits.

Mr. Brezina is the co-founder of Sincerely, a start-up whose mobile apps let users create and mail photo postcards and other printed greetings. The company’s newest service, Sesame, dispatches themed gift boxes that consumers select and order through their smartphones. Sesame went live at the end of last month, just in time for prime gift-giving season.

“This is a new business for us,” Mr. Brezina said. “We had no idea how huge it would be.”

That’s where the rabbits came in. When the work became too much for the 16 full-time employees at his San Francisco office, Mr. Brezina reached out to TaskRabbit, an on-demand service for farming out quick jobs to individual freelancers, which the company calls rabbits. On some days, as many as three rabbits were dispatched to Sincerely, where they packed elaborately designed gifts sets whose contents ranged from puppy-training accessories to cocktail supplies and baby gear.

“Putting these gifts together is an intensely manual process,” Mr. Brezina said, requiring workers who bring attention and care. “We have some people we really like, and we hire them over and over.”

Have you tried any services like these? If so, what worked for you? What didn’t? Which tasks are easily delegated to others? Which ones lend credence to the old adage, “The only way to get a job done right is to do it yourself”?

You can follow Jessica Bruder on Twitter.

Article source: http://boss.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/12/19/how-small-businesses-use-fiverr-taskrabbit-and-other-services/?partner=rss&emc=rss

Barnes & Noble Posts a Profit, but Sales of Digital Content Slows

The company, the largest conventional bookseller, has invested heavily in its Nook e-business as consumers increasingly shop online and read e-books. Barnes Noble said revenue from its Nook business grew, but revenue from devices fell because of lower average selling prices. Digital content revenue grew 38 percent, but that was down from a 46 percent increase in the fiscal first quarter.

Investors were hoping for higher growth, and shares of Barnes Noble fell $1.79, or 11 percent, to $14.26.

Barnes Noble reported net income of $2.2 million for the three months that ended Oct. 27. That translates to a loss of 4 cents a share, however, after the impact of preferred stock dividends. That matched analysts’ expectations, according to FactSet. The results compare with a loss in the same quarter last year of $6.6 million, or 17 cents a share.

Revenue was nearly flat at $1.88 billion. Analysts expected revenue of $1.91 billion.

Revenue from the company’s Nook division rose 6 percent to $160 million. Barnes Noble introduced two new Nook e-readers, a 7-inch Nook HD and 9-inch Nook HD Plus, during the quarter, and began shipping them just after the quarter closed.

In a call with analysts, William Lynch, the chief executive of Barnes Noble, said the company expected digital content buying to pick up after the holiday season, when Nooks are expected to be popular gifts.

The company said Nook unit sales doubled over the busy four-day shopping weekend around Thanksgiving as the company increased markdowns at retailers like Target and Wal-Mart Stores.

But the Nook faces tough competition from other new devices this holiday season, including Apple’s iPad Mini, new Amazon Kindles and Google’s Nexus tablet.

“They’re maintaining their market share by way of promoting and discounting,” said Peter Wahlstrom, an analyst at Morningstar. “But it’s a more competitive marketplace.”

Article source: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/30/business/barnes-noble-posts-small-profit.html?partner=rss&emc=rss

Price Cuts Drag Down Best Buy’s Earnings

Its adjusted earnings missed analysts’ expectations, and its shares tumbled.

Best Buy’s results highlight the challenges the electronics retailer is facing as it seeks to increase traffic during the crucial November and December holiday season. The company, which is competing with discounters and online retailers, increased markdowns and spent more on advertising.

Its chief executive, Brian Dunn, said customers were firmly focused on value this holiday season, so Best Buy had to cut its prices to attract them.

“We took decisive actions to drive our business,” he said. “These actions, while negatively impacting gross margin, significantly resonated with customers and resulted in improved traffic.”

Net income for the three months ended Nov. 26 fell to $154 million, or 42 cents a share. That compares with $217 million, or 54 cents a share, last year.

Excluding one-time items, Best Buy’s adjusted earnings totaled 47 cents a share. Analysts expected 52 cents a share, according to FactSet.

Revenue rose 2 percent, to $12.1 billion, from $11.9 billion a year ago. Analysts expected $12.13 billion. Revenue in American stores open at least one year, an important gauge of a retailer’s financial health, rose 1 percent with help from a 20 percent increase in online revenue.

Strong sellers during the quarter included mobile computing, appliances, e-readers, mobile phones and movies. The company said tablets and e-book readers had triple-digit growth. TV sales also improved from the second quarter.

Digital imaging and gaming were weaker sellers.

Best Buy reaffirmed its full-year guidance of adjusted net income of $3.35 to $3.65 a share. Analysts expect $3.44 a share.

It expects revenue of $51 billion to $52.5 billion. Analysts estimate revenue of $51.83 billion for the year.

Shares fell $4.34, or 15 percent, to $23.73.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=b939658d3ac6d92e980d1248e386c10a

Bucks Blog: Christmas a Good Time to Buy Used Cars, Analysis Shows

A used-car lot in San Francisco.Getty ImagesA used car lot in San Francisco.

If you’re waiting to shop for a used car until after the busy holiday season, you might want to reconsider. An analysis from the automotive Web site CarGurus suggests that you’ll get a much better deal on a used car if you shop close to the Christmas holiday, instead of waiting until later in the winter.

Demand for cars tends to flag at the end of the year. That means prices can be attractive, according to a study of seasonal price trends compiled by CarGurus. The site based its analysis on its used-car price index, with has tracked list prices on roughly 12 million used cars since 2010.

The index shows that car prices usually hit their lowest average of the year in the weeks from Thanksgiving to the first week of January. After that, prices rapidly rise, as demand returns with the new year.

CarGurus says that used-car prices have been in steady decline since peaking in late August and predicts prices will bottom out by Jan. 8 at almost 5 percent below the August peak, with the most striking dip occurring from now to the first week of January. After that, prices are expected to climb by as much as 4 percent by mid-February.

That means, according to CarGurus, that if you’re planning to buy a car in the next six months, you might consider a used model and buy it before New Year’s Day.

Are you willing to take time out from holiday plans to go car hunting?

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=be51c3b7ad0fb25cb49b133c25cbf28a

Bucks Blog: Thursday Reading: D.I.Y. Tips to Spruce Up Your Home for the Holidays

December 01

Many Consumers Plan to Spend Less This Holiday Season

With economic concerns weighing heavily, 42 percent of Americans — and 49 percent of parents — say they plan to spend less this holiday season than last year, a recent survey found.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=acc7e498e35f7bf6da97416683bddada

Bucks Blog: A Calculator to See if You’ll Be Snared by the A.M.T.

Bloomberg News

Right after the holiday season comes tax season. So to help you with your year-end tax planning, Kiplinger is offering a new calculator to help you determine if you will fall prey to the dreaded alternative minimum tax.

The A.M.T. was originally created to make sure the wealthiest Americans paid at least some income tax. But because it has never been indexed to account for inflation, it now snags many middle-class taxpayers.

To use the calculator, you’ll need a few pieces of information:

  • What you expect your 2011 taxable income will be (you can use line 43 from last year’s 1040 if you had no significant changes this year).
  • The number of exemptions you will claim for yourself and your dependents.
  • Whether you choose the standard deduction, or itemize deductions.
  • If you itemize, you will also need to know roughly how much you paid in real estate taxes and state income taxes (or state sales taxes) that you normally deduct on your tax return.

Plug in those numbers—and let us know in the comments if you found the calculator helpful.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=3661615582517843112dea042180ac49

Wal-Mart Reports a Sales Increase in U.S. Stores

Sales at American stores open at least a year increased during the last three months, reversing a negative trend that began in 2009, the company announced on Wednesday. The uptick in same-store sales was a positive sign ahead of third-quarter earnings, which will be announced on Nov. 15.

“Three consecutive months of positive U.S. comps is a good way to be heading into the holiday season,” William S. Simon, president and chief executive for Wal-Mart’s United States division, said at the company’s annual meeting for investors at its headquarters in Arkansas.

Mr. Simon said one reason for the turnaround was the company’s decision to restock more than 10,000 items that had been removed as part of an effort to clean up the stores and make them less cluttered. He said customers were shopping less because they didn’t see the items they wanted.

“We never lost customers,” he said. “What we lost was trips of current customers.”

In addition, Mr. Simon said lower gas prices probably helped bring customers to the stores more often.

The resilience of Wal-Mart’s turnaround will be put to the test during the holiday season, which tends to account for a fifth of retailers’ sales for the year. Wal-Mart officials said they would double the amount they were spending on television advertising during the holiday season, compared to last year.

The first holiday ads should appear in the next few weeks. They will promote Wal-Mart’s layaway program, which it scrapped in 2006 but decided to start again because of demand from consumers.

Shares of Wal-Mart, the nation’s largest discount retailer, increased 48 cents and closed at $55.20 on Wednesday.

While sluggish sales in the United States have partly been offset by more robust results at the company’s Sam’s Club stores, and its Wal-Mart stores overseas, several analysts said the positive turn in the company’s United States business was significant given how long the business had struggled — nine straight quarters of negative same-store sales.

“Heading into today’s event, that is one of the big hurdles people want to hear,” said Joseph Feldman, of Telsey Advisory Group. “The good news is they sounded positive, just in general.”

David A. Schick, of Stifel Nicolaus, said Wal-Mart finally seemed to be recovering from an abrupt change in its strategy of offering fewer products and more upscale items. When the company decided to drop that strategy last summer amid lackluster results, he said it was like “turning the battleship.”

“This is a company that reversed course and felt that friction and pain throughout the model,” he said. “There’s been enough time where that friction is lessening.”

Besides adding items back to its stores, Wal-Mart also decided to focus on more basic apparel, Mr. Schick said. “A return to basics is the primary focus,” he said.

Wal-Mart officials said Wednesday that they planned to decrease capital expenditures in the 2013 fiscal year by 7 percent from the 2012 fiscal year. Even so, because of reductions in remodeling and construction costs, the retail chain plans to build as many as 250 stores in the United States in 2013, compared to 160 in 2012.

Among the new stores planned for 2013, roughly 100 will be smaller-format neighborhood markets and express stores.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=47cdfc3b206b3d4e15ab35b918dbb3f7

Thursday Reading

Best of Times - Your Money - Bucks Blog - NYTimes.com

A wide variety of consumer-focused stories appears in The New York Times and online in our blogs. Each weekday morning, we gather them all up here so you can quickly scan the news that could hit your wallet.

Article source: http://feeds.nytimes.com/click.phdo?i=f939c0a8ca2a078e7c8cac0858241e3a