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SMS Assist receives backing from investment firm

BY CSA STAFF

Pritzker Group Venture Capital, formerly New World Ventures, has invested $45 million in Chicago-based SMS Assist, a leading mobile and cloud-based facilities maintenance technology company.

“SMS Assist has disruptive technology that is significantly reducing facilities maintenance expenses for some of the nation’s largest companies. Validating the company’s growth trajectory is a series of high-value contracts, including one of the largest in retail facilities maintenance history. We are helping to build a great company that is fundamentally changing its industry,” said J. B. Pritzker, Pritzker Group’s managing partner.

SMS Assist offers advanced mobile and cloud-based technology capable of managing millions of daily facilities maintenance service orders. Its 28,000 affiliated providers currently service more than 50,000 U.S. locations for a client base primarily made up of Fortune 500 companies. SMS’s proprietary technology platform turns cost centers into expense reduction centers by identifying innovative ways to reduce expenses and gain operational efficiencies while improving service quality. Customers also benefit from real-time visibility into work orders and spend by store, service type and geography, data that is unique to SMS Assist.

SMS Assist recently announced it won a major multi-year contract expansion with a major retailer, consolidating services at nearly 8,000 U.S. locations. The company currently provides services to 50,000 locations for national companies including Office Depot, Best Buy, CBRE, Diamond Resorts International and Jones Lang LaSalle.

SMS Assist is now Pritzker Group’s largest venture investment, surpassing its $50 million investment in IO, the leading provider of next-generation modular data center technology and services. It is the most recent late stage investment for Pritzker Group Venture Capital, which recently announced the expansion of its investments to include large, later-stage funding of companies with disruptive technology that are nearing IPO or revolutionizing industries.

“The backing of Pritzker Group means SMS Assist will have the growth capital it needs to continue providing the highest quality service to our customers, no matter how much business we add. They are committed to helping us make SMS Assist the world leader in its industry, and we are extremely proud that they have chosen to partner with us,” said Michael Rothman, SMS Assist CEO.

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Deloitte: Holiday season looks bright, especially online

BY Dan Berthiaume

New York – Despite many forecasts of a gloomy holiday season for retailers, Deloitte is predicting an increase in consumer spending. Deloitte’s 28th annual survey of holiday spending intentions and trends indicates shoppers surveyed plan to spend an average of $421 on holiday gifts this year, up from $386 last year. They also expect to buy an average of 12.9 gifts, ending a five-year decline in the number of gifts they plan to purchase.

The amount consumers plan to spend on non-gift items for themselves or their families rose 14% from 2012, while spending on home and holiday furnishings jumped 25% from last year. In addition, 54% of consumers believe the economy is on the rebound, an increase of 22 percentage points in the past two years.

The Internet moved into the top spot among holiday shopping destinations for the first time in its 15 years represented in the survey, bumping discount/value department stores from the No. 1 position. Nearly half (47%) of consumers plan to purchase items online, followed by 44% at discount/value stores. More than three-quarters (76%) of consumers cite convenience as a reason for shopping online, followed by price (63%).

The omni-channel shopper is most likely to make retailers’ spirits bright. Those who shop a combination of store, Internet and mobile channels plan to spend a total of $1,643 on the holidays, 76% higher than those who shop in the store only. Nearly eight in 10 (77%) consumers say that if a product is not available on a store’s website, they will go elsewhere, while only 13% would go to that same retailer’s store. In addition, 45% of all respondents indicate they would switch to an entirely different store chain or website if they can’t find the desired item in a retailer’s store.

Other findings include:

  • Nearly three-quarters (73%) of consumers say their holiday spending will be influenced by coupons or promotional offers.
  • More than seven-in-10 (71%) say they plan to take advantage of free shipping offers, while nearly half (47%) expect free returns. More than four in 10 (44%) shoppers intend to take retailers up on price-matching guarantees, 36% will shop extended hours and 35% plan to order online for in-store pickup.
  • Retailers may also have good reason to roll out the promotions early this year: the number of consumers who say they expect to complete the majority of their shopping by early November (30%) rose five percentage points from last year. One-quarter (25%) of consumers plan to shop on Black Friday and 24% plan to do so on Cyber Monday. Forty-five percent indicate that Black Friday isn’t as important as it used to be.

"The survey reveals a brighter consumer spending outlook than we’ve seen in several years," said Alison Paul, vice chairman, Deloitte LLP, and retail & distribution sector leader. "Consumers are feeling more generous about gift spending, and we are encouraged by their plans to spend more on going out for celebrations, decorating their homes and treating themselves and their families to ‘early gifts’ while holiday shopping this year. The government shutdown and debt crisis had the potential to dampen consumer sentiment, however, the settlement likely averted any significant impact on the holiday season. The timely resolution of those issues may also give consumers an extra confidence boost just as promotions start hitting the stores and the shopping season gets underway."

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Whirlpool raises full-year guidance following third quarter results

BY CSA STAFF

Following third quarter results, Whirlpool is increasing its full-year diluted earnings per share guidance to $10.45 to $10.65 from the previous range of $10.05 to $10.55, and its full-year adjusted earnings per share to $9.90 to $10.10 from the previous range of $9.50 to $10.

The company reported net earnings of $196 million for the quarter, or $2.42 per diluted share, compared to net earnings of $74 million, or $0.94 per diluted share, reported during the same period last year.

Adjusted to exclude the impact of foreign currency and Brazilian tax credits, diluted earnings per share improved to $2.72, compared to $1.80 in the prior year, mainly driven by higher revenue, ongoing cost productivity and the benefit of cost and capacity-reduction initiatives.

Sales in the quarter were $4.7 billion compared to $4.5 billion reported during the same period last year. Excluding the impact of foreign currency and Brazilian tax credits, sales increased more than 5%, led by strong growth in North America.

"We continue to execute on the plans we set out at the beginning of the year," said Jeff M. Fettig, chairman and CEO. "Our innovative products and industry-leading brands are driving increased consumer demand and revenue growth. That growth, combined with our actions to increase margins, is translating into record earnings."

Whirlpool North America reported third-quarter sales of $2.6 billion compared to $2.4 billion in the prior year, an increase of more than 8%. The region reported operating profit of $289 million, 11% of sales, compared to $227 million, approximately 9% of sales, in the prior year. Higher sales, ongoing productivity and the benefit of cost and capacity-reduction initiatives more than offset higher material costs and investments in marketing, technology, and products.

The company now expects full-year 2013 U.S. industry unit shipments to increase by approximately 9%.

Whirlpool markets Whirlpool, Maytag, KitchenAid, Jenn-Air, Amana, Brastemp, Consul, Bauknecht and other major brand names to consumers in nearly every country around the world.

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