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Transit Tests Tap ’n Go Payment

BY CSA STAFF

Commuters relying on San Francisco’s Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) have been tapped to participate in a four-month test of payment by wireless phone. Equipped with a near-field communications (NFC) enabled Sprint wireless phone, the select group of 230 trial participants can pay for their ride by simply “tagging” their phone on a reader located on the BART fare gate.

Additionally, the specially equipped Sprint mobile phones will utilize the embedded NFC “smart chip” to facilitate information downloads from “smart advertisements” lining the walls of the BART station. For instance, Jack in the Box restaurants are also participating in this first-in-the nation test so commuters might download directions to one of the restaurants or discounts for food. At the restaurants, participants can use their phones to pay for their meal.

According to First Data Corp., Greenwood Village, Colo., provider of the end-to-end payment solution, this trial is the first to give participants the added benefit of automatically receiving discounts. Typically, discount offers are only provided to customers who have enrolled in a merchant’s loyalty program. Previous pay-by-mobile-phone trials have allowed customers to pay for goods and services using a credit card tied to the phone, and this typically prevented them from automatically receiving the discounts. However, the participants in this trial automatically receive special discounts, such as a 6.25% discount that BART provides to purchasers of high-value tickets.

Another automated feature of the phones is that the NFC technology will automatically reload the phone with $48 in BART rides when the account drops to $10. Participants can use their phones to check their balances.

Several companies have partnered to bring this solution to market, including Santa Clara, Calif.-based ViVOtech, which developed the NFC software for the mobile phones and the Over-the-Air (OTA) card provisioning servers that Sprint is using. Additional technology partners are software provider Acumen Transit, Oakland, Calif.; San Diego-based Cubic Transportation Systems, BART’s provider of automatic fare collection; consultant Booz Allen Hamilton, McLean, Va.; NFC-chip manufacturer NXP Semiconductors, Eindhoven, The Netherlands; handset provider Samsung Mobile; and Englewood, Colo.-based Western Union Payment Services, provider of the self-service Internet options.

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Lampert, the Eli Manning of retail?

BY CSA STAFF

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. The New York Giants triumph over the highly favored New England Patriots in the Super Bowl earlier this month, has become an example of coming from the bottom to win it all. Sears Holdings chairman Edward Lampert is one of the latest to use the Giants win, even going as far to compare himself, and the leaders of his company, to quarterback Eli Manning.

The Giants analogy, and Eli Manning comparison, is applied mainly to the company’s Kmart division. In a letter to investors, posted on the Sears Holdings investor relations Web site, Lampert said during Kmart’s bankruptcy in 2002, the unit was “like an undrafted free agent who nobody thought had a chance to play in the big leagues.” Lampert went on to say, “Like Eli Manning, we know what it’s like to be underestimated and questioned, but we intend to keep working on our game to achieve our full potential.”

Sears Holdings reported net income of $426 million, or $3.17 per diluted share, for the fourth quarter ended Feb. 2, compared with net income of $811 million, or $5.27 per diluted share, for the fourth quarter ended Feb. 3, 2007. For the fiscal year ended Feb. 2, 2008, net income was $826 million, or $5.70 per diluted share compared with net income of $1.5 billion, or $9.58 per diluted share, for the fiscal year ended Feb. 3, 2007.

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Circuit City investor seeks to replace board

BY CSA STAFF

RICHMOND, Va. Circuit City Stores today acknowledged that it has received two proposals from shareholder Wattles Capital Management regarding its board of directors. Wattles holds approximately 6.5% of the outstanding shares of the company’s common stock.

Circuit City reported that Wattles proposed the idea of replacing the company’s Circuit City 12-member board of directors with its own nominees. Circuit City said its board of directors will review carefully the shareholder’s proposals and the qualifications of the nominees in accordance with its fiduciary duties, mindful that the proposal would give the shareholder absolute control of the entire board, which would be disproportionate to its relative ownership of the company’s shares.

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