FINANCE

Talbots rejects buyout offer from Sycamore Partners

BY Marianne Wilson

New York City — Talbots Inc. has rejected a buyout offer from private-equity firm Sycamore Partners its biggest shareholder, saying the bid “substantially” undervalues the company. The bid was valued at approximately at $205.2 million.

Sycamore is Talbots biggest shareholder, with a 9.9% in the company. In a statement, Talbots called the proposal inadequate and said it will explore its strategic options to help maximize value for its shareholders. The retailer did not set a deadline for when its review will end.

Talbots said it plans to continue pursuing its long-range plan and that its search for a new president and CEO is ongoing. Current chief executive Trudy Sullivan plans to retire as soon as a successor is named.

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The growing trend of mobile payments

BY CSA STAFF

By Jacob Thompson

Mobile payments provide retailers an opportunity to take advantage of the newest method of payment. The Center of Retail Research recently released some interesting figures, numbers that clearly shows the growing trend of customers using mobile money. It also predicted that about one out of every 10 shoppers would purchase a gift this holiday season using a mobile device.

This trend continues to grow as technology improves and customers feel secure using mobile payments. In 2012, it is expected that using mobile money will become even more mainstream as phones that offer the services become more affordable due to newer models of the devices being released.

Merchants may want to start consider implementing cell phone payment processing in order to cash in on the projected 119 billion dollars in mobile payments for retail goods by 2015. Some estimations have m-commerce topping a trillion dollars globally by 2020. Top m-commerce retailers are large companies like eBay and Amazon, but that does not mean small businesses cannot take advantage of this growing trend as well.

There are many advantages for a small business that chooses to accept mobile payments. Accepting mobile money can increase business opportunities, expand the customer base and increase profit. Traditionally, any merchant that wanted to accept credit card payments would have to go through a credit card processing services company, lease expensive terminals and swipe machines and enter into a long-term contract (read more at MerchantSeek.com). Now, with applications like Square and Intuit’s GoPayment, merchants can use their existing smart phone with a card reader attachment and pay a per transaction fee.

If your business does not already accept mobile money, now is the perfect time to start. Mobile payments are fast, and many applications simply e-mail or send a text receipt in place of a paper receipt. That means there is no longer a wait time for receipts to print and no additional resources needed to be spent on printing machines, ink and specialty paper. As more customers get acclimated to paying with mobile money, not offering this method of payment will drive a certain customer base away. As the trend of m-commerce continues to grow,not accepting mobile payments will be just like not accepting credit cards at all.

There are numerous choices for a mobile credit card processing service for merchants. Some applications require an online merchant account in order to accept mobile money while others do not. Once the app is installed, merchants can begin to process credit or debit card transactions with a data processing package, credit card processing service and any necessary accessories required by the application.

There are two methods to physically process the card. One way allows you to key in the credit card number and then have the customer sign the device with a stylus, the second way calls for attaching a small card reader to the mobile device, so the card can be swiped.

Mobile commerce will continue to grow and expand, and retailers can take advantage of this trend by deciding on the best way to start accepting mobile payments.

Jacob Thompson is a writer for Merchant Seek. His articles have appeared on several small business advice sites. Mechant Seek is located in Savannah, Georgia and provides advice for retailers on choosing a payment processing company.

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Stein Mart elevates Hawkins to new role amid operational challenges

BY CSA STAFF

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Discount retailer Stein Mart named Hunt Hawkins COO and expanded his responsibilities to include store operations and e-commerce at the 263-unit chain. Hawkins previously served as EVP and chief administrative officer with responsibility for information technology, supply chain and human resources, responsibilities he will retain in his new role.

“Hunt has been an important part of Stein Mart since 1994 and has had a key role in our significant operational improvements over the last several years,” said Jay Stein, the company’s interim CEO. “This is a great reward for his many years of quality service.”

The appointment of Hawkins is noteworthy because it follows an announcement the prior week that Stein Mart was noncompliant with NASDAQ listing requirements because it failed to file its quarterly report with the Securities and Exchange Commission in a timely manner due to an information technology issue, which understated the impact of permanent markdowns in third-quarter results. The issue caused the company to increase the size of its previously reported third-quarter net loss of $1.8 million, or four cents a share, by an additional $1.3 million to $1.6 million, or three to four cents a share.

Accordingly, the company declared the breakdown in control, which caused the issue a material weakness, and said it planned to put enhanced controls in place to prevent a similar situation from recurring. As it was explained at the time, July and August merchandise unit balances in the company’s legacy perpetual inventory system were understated as a result of a planned, but improperly executed, one-time override of an automated records purge process.The legacy perpetual inventory system is scheduled to be replaced with a new system, which is anticipated to go live in the first quarter of 2012. The company said transactions recorded in the retail stock ledger, which is the accounting system of record for inventory and cost of merchandise sold, were correct except for permanent markdowns.

Stein Mart has had a tough go of it lately, and third-quarter sales reflect the company’s challenge. Same-store sales declined 2.9%, and total sales declined 3.5% to $258.5 million. The sales challenge continued during November when the company reported a 4.6% decline in same-store sales on top of flat prior-year results. The diminished performance was due in part to an effort to get off the promotional roller coaster and revert to more of an every day low price value proposition.

As interim CEO Stein noted when results were released, “We made progress in reducing our reliance on coupons this month, but not without some adverse impact to our sales. Our day-to-day business was satisfactory, however, we realized major shortfalls as we anniversaried our largest events. It is important for our long-term competitive position that we differentiate ourselves by re-establishing the value of our merchandise offering through everyday low prices."

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