FINANCE

Supply chain stakeholders urge Obama to act on West Coast ports

BY Dan Berthiaume

Washington, D.C. – More than 160 national, state and local trade associations and organizations, representing the interests of the global supply chain and local communities, wrote to President Barack Obama Dec. 23 to urge the administration’s immediate involvement in the ongoing contract negotiations between the International Longshore and Warehouse Union and Pacific Maritime Association. The ILWU and PMA have been negotiating a new labor contract, which covers dockworkers at the 29 West Coast U.S. ports.

The supply chain letter follows PMA’s official request for the appointment of a federal mediator to assist in the contract negotiations, and compliments an earlier letter to the White House in November, which called on the administration to consider appointing a mediator through the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service. To date that request, as well as several others made by shippers and stakeholders, has gone unanswered.

The ILWU and PMA have been negotiating a new labor contract since mid-May. The previous contract expired on July 1, 2014. Even though the two sides have been meeting regularly, recent reports of labor slowdowns and increasing port congestion have alarmed the supply chain community and raised fears of a potential port shutdown.

“The longer these negotiations continue, the greater the negative impact this will have on jobs, down-stream consumers and the business operations of exporters, importers, retailers, transportation providers, manufacturers, and other stakeholders,” the letter said. “With an official request from the PMA for a mediator, we urge the administration to work with both parties to appoint a mediator from the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service.”

“The supply chain community is united in its call on President Obama to appoint a federal mediator to help the parties resolve the ongoing contract dispute,” said National Retail Federation VP for supply chain Jonathan Gold.

“After months of talks, the two sides have made very little discernible progress toward a new contract; however they have succeeded in disrupting the global supply chain, increasing port congestion for importers and exporters, delaying shipments for retailers, manufacturers, farmers and others, and potentially harming the long-term competitiveness of the West Coast ports.”

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FINANCE

Sports Authority chief to lead Guitar Center

BY Antoinette Alexander

Guitar Center has chosen retailing veteran Darrell Webb to be the company's new president and CEO. From 2011 to 2013, Webb served as chairman and CEO of the Sports Authority.

Webb has more than 30 years of experience in retailing and has led several multibillion dollar companies through periods of rapid growth.

"Given Darrell's extraordinary track record of success in growing and leading large, specialty retail companies, we are confident in his abilities to enhance Guitar Center's customer experience and further bolster the company's position as a world-class, omnichannel retailer in one of the most passion-driven retail categories," said David Kaplan, a member of Guitar Center's board of directors.

Between 2006 and 2011, Webb was chairman, CEO and president of Jo-Ann Fabric & Craft Stores, the largest fabric and craft retailer in the United States, which had record earnings during his leadership. Prior to Jo-Ann, Webb spent more than 20 years with Fred Meyer Inc. and the Kroger Co. At Kroger, Webb most recently served as president of Fred Meyer Stores from 2002 to 2006.

Guitar Center has more than 260 Guitar Center stores and 120 Music & Arts Center stores across the country, as well as a portfolio of direct-to-consumer brands (including Musician's Friend, Music123, and Woodwind & Brasswind).

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FINANCE

Study: Many shoppers plan to buy gift cards this holiday

BY Antoinette Alexander

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Spend on prepaid gift cards is on the rise this holiday season, as a significant majority (70%) of shoppers plan to purchase gift cards this season, according to an interim holiday spending report released by Stored Value Solutions, a provider of gift cards and stored value services.

According to the report, 92% of shoppers plan to spend either the same amount or more on gift cards than they spent last year. And for the eighth straight year, gift cards have been the most desired holiday gift.

SVS has been tracking gift card data for nearly a decade, but this is the first report to be issued publicly on this sector of holiday retail spending, a category whose numbers are difficult to capture in the aggregate, the company stated. The inaugural report provides detailed break downs of gift card spend by sector, geography and demographics.

SVS’s research is tracked against real-time activity the company sees firsthand, including first-time gift card sales, increases or decreases in same-merchant sales, and average dollar amounts loaded onto the gift cards.

“The actual real-time spending data we possess allows us to test the survey results, and at this time in the holiday season, we’re able to identify some close correlations between intention and actual activity. That’s always a hard thing to nail in a consumer survey,” said SVS’ managing director and EVP Mark Schatz,

In addition, SVS’s real-time data is able to correlate gift card spending with more macroeconomic retail spending trends, seeing a commensurate rise in the dollar value of gift card spending when overall sales are on the upswing.

Other findings of the study include:

  • The average consumer plans to spend $231 on gift cards;
  • Men are planning to spend more on gift cards than women;
  • 90% of consumers that have finished some, but not most of their shopping (26% to 50%) are planning to purchase gift cards; and
  • 58% of younger people (18 to 35) are planning to increase the amount they are spending on gift cards.

Schatz added, “Because we’re able to pinpoint the ways people use gift cards, we can draw interesting insights not only about the general state of consumer shopping behavior, but about how this changes by generation, by channel and by gender. This holiday season is a reflection of a pattern we’ve seen unfolding for some time.”

A nationally representative sample of 1,000 adults ages 18 years and older completed the brief survey Dec. 1 to 2.

Of the respondents, 696 adults confirmed they had already purchased or intend to purchase gift cards this holiday season.

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