FINANCE

Virgin Megastore France to declare itself insolvent

BY Staff Writer

Paris — A Friday report by Reuters said that Virgin Megastore’s French division will declare insolvent next week, slated to unveil a plan to file for payments suspension on Jan. 7.

The French operation is the latest victim of the slump in CD and DVD sales.

Virgin France is owned by private equity firm Butler Capital Partners, and operates 26 Virgin-branded stores in France.

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FINANCE

Online holiday spending total falls short

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Reston, Va. — A report released Friday by comScore showed that holiday online spending grew 14% year-over-year to $42.3 billion, as individual shopping days reached record spending levels.

Total results, however, fell slightly short of early-season predictions, as softer-than-expected buying occurred during the early to mid weeks of the period.

“This year’s season did not quite perform up to our initial expectation for growth rates in excess of 16% as we fell a billion dollars short of our expected total of $43.4 billion,” said comScore chairman Gian Fulgoni. “While November started out at a very healthy 16% growth rate through the promotional period of Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday, consumers almost immediately pulled back on spending, apparently due to concerns over the looming fiscal cliff and what that might mean for their household budgets in 2013.”

Several individual days saw particularly strong growth, including Free Shipping Day on Monday, Dec. 17 (up 76% to $1.013 billion) and Christmas Day (up 36% to $288 million), but they could not make up for the spending growth shortfall earlier in the month.

comScore’s analysis of weekly online holiday spending totals showed how spending growth softened during the three most important spending weeks of the holiday season. Following four weeks of growth in the mid-to-high teens, each of the next three weeks failed to surpass a 12% growth rate despite their record-setting spending totals (including the first ever $7 billion week for the week ending Dec. 16). The highly variable growth rates in the final two weeks (extremely high in the penultimate week and extremely low in the final week) are primarily a function of the way the calendar fell in relation to Christmas, said Fulgoni.

"While it is typical to see growth rates subside slightly during the week after Thanksgiving, the amplified and sustained lull this year came as something of a surprise,” he said. December’s swoon coincided with a significant decline in the University of Michigan consumer sentiment index that was attributed in large part to consumers’ fiscal cliff concerns, he explained.

The top 10 heaviest days for online spending in 2012 all occurred during the holiday shopping period. The season was once again led by Cyber Monday (Nov. 26) with a record $1.465 billion in spending, followed by Tuesday, Dec. 4 with $1.362 billion and Green Monday (Dec. 10) with $1.275 billion.

Rounding out the top 10 were Tuesday, Nov. 27; Tuesday, Dec. 11; Friday, Dec. 14; Thursday, Dec. 13; Monday, Dec. 3; Wednesday, Nov. 28; and Wednesday, Dec. 5.

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News

Format experimentation on international agenda

BY CSA STAFF

Walmart SVP Lev Khasis was elevated to the new role of president and CEO of new formats for Walmart International, according Reuters and Bloomberg reports citing a Walmart spokesman.

Khasis joined Walmart in 2011 after working for Russian retailer X5, a company Walmart reportedly had an interest in acquiring. The spokesman said Khasis will focus on developing store concepts that can be deployed across markets.

"Lev has a track record of developing innovative formats, and he will now focus on developing new concepts that can be deployed across our markets to provide future growth," Walmart spokesman Kevin Gardner was quoted as saying.

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