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Golfsmith selects Moovweb to power mobile marketing

BY Staff Writer

San Francisco — Mobile development platform-provider Moovweb said that Golfsmith has selected its SmartMoov mobile cloud technology to power the golf retailer’s next generation experiential mobile website and iPhone app.

Golfsmith said it chose the SmartMoov platform for its ability to render merchandising features as a compelling "in store" shopping experience on its mobile website and within the app.

"With over 20% of our web traffic now coming from mobile, our mobile e-commerce strategy is rapidly evolving, and the need for high-end, interactive mobile retail experiences among our discriminating customers had outgrown our existing infrastructure," said Jamey Maki, director of e-commerce & online experience for Golfsmith International. "Our strategy is to recreate our experiential retail experience on mobile by quickly leveraging our web marketing investments in interactive features such as HD video, faceted search and daily deals into our mobile website and app."

Golfsmith said its ability to leverage faceted product search and HD video on mobile, for example, has already boosted sales of high margin products such as putting greens from mobile customers. "Before Moovweb, it was difficult for our customers to search for, learn about and buy high-end, high-touch products like putting greens," said Maki.

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Moody’s on Credit Card Interchange Fee Settlement

BY Marianne Wilson

The July 13 settlement of a lawsuit over allegedly fixed credit card interchange fees is a credit positive for the two largest industry players Visa and Mastercard, but will have a smaller impact on merchant acquirers, retailers and banks, said Moody’s Investors Service in a new special comment "Credit Card Interchange Fee Settlement is Credit Positive For Visa, MasterCard."

The $6.6 billion settlement concludes a protracted legal proceeding that saw retailers sue credit card network operators and the largest banks that issue Visa and MasterCard payment cards, alleging a conspiracy to fix interchange fees.

As part of the settlement Visa will pay its $4.4 billion share from its litigation escrow account, which is funded by the shareholdings of U.S. member banks. But the longer-term impact of this settlement will continue to factor into ratings, said Moody’s.

"This settlement removes a major uncertainty for Visa and MasterCard with an interchange fee reduction much smaller than expected," said Stephen Sohn, a Moody’s VP – senior credit officer. "Without this litigation overhang, Visa and MasterCard could pursue more aggressive financial policies that will be key to any possible rating changes."

One effect of the settlement might be a reduction in credit card volumes, says the rating agency. That’s because retailers are now free to impose surcharges on credit card purchases, although "no-surcharge" laws in 10 states—including California, Texas and New York—will remain valid.

Banks like JP Morgan Chase, Bank of America and Citigroup too will only be modestly affected by the settlement, standing to lose only about 1%-3% of pre-provision income, says Moody’s.

Given the relatively small reduction of credit card interchange fees (10 basis points for an eight-month period), we expect that merchant acquirers will only modestly benefit from keeping a portion of the savings in 2013.

But neither the monetary damages from the settlement or the temporary reduction in the interchange fees will have a material impact on the earnings of retailers. Moody’s expects any savings to offset rising operating costs.

The last area of the settlement that is of potential benefit to retailers is the ability to assess a surcharge on purchases made with a MasterCard or Visa credit card. However, because Moody’s believes consumers would not view surcharges favorably, it expects large national retailers not to add surcharges to credit-card purchases. However, Moody’s said it is possible that small mom-and-pop retailers who operate in states that allow surcharges may decide to add them.


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Safeway not swayed by negative forces

BY CSA STAFF

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Undeterred by an abundance of headwinds facing conventional supermarket retailers, Safeway chairman and CEO Steve Burd expressed optimism about his company’s performance and prospects during the second half of the year.

Following a modestly better than expected second quarter profit performance, Safeway confirmed a full year profit forecast that calls for earnings per share in the range of $1.90 to $2.10. Safeway is assuming it will achieve full year identical stores sales increases of 1% to 2% and product inflation will range from 2% to 3%. The affirmation of guidance that was provided earlier this year followed the July 19 release of financial results for the second quarter ended June 16 that analysts and investors found concerning.

During the period, Safeway generated income from continuing operations of $121.7 million, or 50 cents a share, compared to profits of $146 million or 41 cents a share the prior year. Total sales increased by $190 million or 1.9% to nearly $10.4 billion and identical store sales advanced 0.8% after a flat first quarter.

The reason the company was able to grow earnings per share nearly 22% on a decline in net income is because a massive stock buyback program reduced the number of outstanding shares. By the end of the second quarter Safeway’s outstanding shares had fallen to 240 million compared to 352 million at the end of the second quarter the prior year.

The share repurchase activity clearly helped the company’s profit performance, but Burd made the case that sales weren’t too bad either and are poised to accelerate during the back half of the year thanks to some new initiatives that are expected to gain traction.

“We are encouraged to see that our volume trends are improving as inflation has eased, and we are pleased to see market share gains in the grocery channel and a slight gain in market share in all food-related channels,” Burd said. “We expect continued momentum as participation grows in our Just for U loyalty program that is now available in all U.S. divisions and as we enhance our fuel rewards programs and expand our health and wellness initiatives.”

While Burd expressed optimism about the future, analysts fixated on the 73 basis point erosion in gross margins that saw the company’s rate of profitability decline to 26.3% of sales. One of the reasons for the decline was increased costs related to the roll out of the company’s Just 4 U loyalty program which is being relied upon to deliver longer term sales growth. Safeway was eager to get the initiative rolled out to the market to promote registration and usage because early indications are the program helped the company grow sales and gain share. After identical store sales were flat in the first quarter and up only 0.8% in the second, Safeway is counting on considerable improvement in third quarter and fourth quarter sales if it hopes to achieve the upper end of its full year identical-store sales target.

As for expenses, Safeway managed to offset the decline in its overall rate of profitability by controlling them. Operating and administrative expense decreased 39 basis points to 23.99% of sales in the second quarter.

Safeway invested $219.2 million in capital expenditures in the second quarter of 2012, while opening one new store in the company’s Lifestyle format and completing one Lifestyle remodel. However, the company also closed 10 stores, including three Genuardi’s stores that were sold during the quarter. For the year, Safeway expects to invest approximately $900 million in capital expenditures to open approximately 10 new Lifestyle stores, complete approximately 10 Lifestyle remodels, refurbish in-store pharmacies and develop properties through the company’s wholly owned subsidiary, Property Development Centers LLC.

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