Mobile shopping continues to make inroads

Mobile and online fraud prevention firm reported 37 percent of retail online transactions from Black Friday to Cyber Monday were made from mobile phones and tablets.
A year ago, online retail purchases made from mobile devices accounted for 33 percent of sales.
Last week, iovation found mobile devices were used for 38 percent of transactions on Black Friday, 40 percent on the following Saturday and Sunday, 30 percent on Cyber Monday, and 44 percent the weekend before Black Friday, Nov. 22 and 23.


The latest Credit Managers’ Index  from the National Association of Credit Management indicated how fragile economic progress can be.

The reading dropped from 57.0 to 55.8, taking the index back to levels not seen since February and March when the economy was in the middle of a significant first-quarter recession. While the reading wasn’t as low as September’s reading of 54.9, it was lower than all but three of the last 12 months.

The worry is that credit will tighten, the NACM said. On a brighter note, bankruptcies are not creating a major drag.

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Thoughts from an analyst who is bullish on Lithia

Simeon Rusanov, a fund manager for Lancaster University Investment and Finance Society in the United Kingdom, is flat out a believer in Lithia Motors.
Blogging for Seeking Alpha, a financial and investing website, Rusanov concluded a lengthy, detailed analysis thusly:

“To sum up, I am bullish on the automotive sector due to favorable economic conditions. I believe that Lithia Motors has good, if not the best, chances to capitalize on the current oil price and record sustainable long-term growth. Lithia Motors’ share price has been significantly depressed due to some short-term factors including downgrading of earnings guidance last quarter. This gives potential investors a great chance to enter into a long position, hoping that Lithia Motors won’t miss its lifetime opportunity.”

Lithia shares rocketed to a series of all-time highs a few months ago, dropped precipitously, and has regained stability in the $70-$75 range.


Consumers can’t seem to figure out if things are getting better, or not.
The Rasmussen Consumer Index, which measures consumer confidence on a daily basis, held steady at 104.2 today. Consumer confidence is down one point from a week ago, up eight points from a month ago, and down six points from findings three months ago.
The Rasmussen Investor Index rose one point to 121.3 on Tuesday. Investor confidence is up two points from a week ago and 11 points from a month ago, but down ten points from three months ago.

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Medford Center no longer a “forgotten child”

The sale of Medford Center, announced Tuesday, received applause from commercial real estate brokers.

Tom Fischer of Coldwell Banker Commercial NW in Medford thinks LBG Real Estate Companies princpals Leslie Lundin, Doug Beiswenger and David Goldman are the right people at the right time for Medford Center.

“Doug and those guys have done turnarounds of shopping centers in the past, and I think they are well-suited for the task at Medford Center,” Fischer said.

New Hyde Park, N.Y.-based Kimco Realty acquired Medford Center eight years ago as part of $4.1 billion deal with Pan Pacific Properties. But the global real estate giant treated the 55-year-old shopping center as an afterthought at best.

“Kimco always treated Medford Center like a forgotten child,” Fischer said. “They were never really on site and never quick to give attention

(LBG Real Estate) have a history that is much better. They are better in keeping contact with tenants and to be more aggressive to make it an active center. I see it as a definite positive move. They have plans and are excited about what Medford Center can be. I think it’s a great plus for a center that has been dealing with neglect.”


The National Independent Automobile Dealers Association reports its member dealers were wary of the nation’s economic direction leading up to the midterm elections, delaying plans to expand their businesses in the third quarter.

NIADA’s Third Quarter Member Business Confidence Survey showed member dealers expected to expand their business fell 5.9 percentage points from the second quarter to 26.3 percent, while those expecting to hire new staff dropped 6.3 points to 26.7 percent.

In addition, 11.9 percent fewer dealers said they expected their retail sales to grow in the upcoming quarter, 16.7 percent fewer expected their cash flow to improve, 14 percent fewer expected customer traffic to increase and 9.2 percent fewer expected economic conditions to improve.


The Oregon Small Business Association reports there are plenty of job openings in the northern part of the state.

The association reports Portland could see more than a thousand new jobs added to its economy from Aruba Networks, ShopKeep, eBay, Under Armour, CarMax, Fred Meyer and Cabela’s.


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Buffett buys into auto retailing à la Lithia Motors

Warren Buffet, through Berkshire Hathaway and its vast holdings, touches just about every life in the country.
If you doubt it, when you’re writing those monthly electric bill checks you’re adding to Buffet’s billions.
Now the Oracle of Omaha is buying into the auto retailing market.
That could make things more interesting for Lithia Motors, which just closed its deal purchase DCH Auto Group Inc. DCH operates 27 dealerships in Southern California, New Jersey and New York. Combined with its exisiting 101 operations Lithia now has a hand in 128 locations nationwide.
Combined with DCH sales, Lithia Motors is now a $5 billion-plus firm and the eighth-largest U.S. retailer with plenty of upside.
Asked about Buffett’s entry into auto retailing, Lithia Chairman Sid DeBoer saw the move as a reassuring pat on the back.
“It confirms what we have known for years,” DeBoer said. “Auto retailing is a great business.”
Berkshire Thursday agreed to buy Van Tuyl Group, the fifth-largest auto dealership firm with 78 dealerships from California to Florida.
As has been the case with the DeBoer family, Buffett said in a CNBC interview he anticipates plenty of family-owned dealerships are ripe for the picking.

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So just what will those investigative law firms find beneath the Harry & David rock pile?

I find it downright hilarious when attorneys start pointing fingers at attorneys.

When you consider who ended up holding shares of the rebirthed Harry & David Holdings three years ago, it is nearly laughable to read the spate of law firm announcements, couched with all-due-indignation, how they are investigating Harry & David’s sale to

As an example:

Levi & Korsinsky is investigating the Board of Directors of Harry & David Holdings Inc. for possible breaches of fiduciary duty and other violations of state law in connection with the sale of the Company to 1-800-FLOWERS.COM, Inc.”

If such law firms are concerned about the (poor) widows and orphans holding shares, they shouldn’t be. The over-the-counter shares were held primarily by former Wasserstein & Co. investors (some of them holding law degrees themselves). Those are the same folks who sunk Harry & David under impossible debt, dumped its pension program and jilted mom and pop vendors here in the Rogue Valley with the blessing of a Delaware Bankruptcy Court judge.

So one can only conclude the financial world equivalent of ambulance-chasing lawyers automatically launch “investigations” every time a Wall Street deal occurs.


 Every time I attend an Internet security, digital security or scam security conference, I am reminded: There are two types of people, those whose personal/business stuff has been hacked, and those whose personal/business staff will be hacked in the near future.

To wit, here is a New York Times pieces detailing what the Home Depot security breach means to its customers.


Dust in the wind: Nothing lasts forever…

In this case, the idea that you can flip the switch and lights will come on or microwave reheat the leftovers may soon be passé.

There are plenty of contributing factors, and this Portland Business Journal reports addresses part of the equation.

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Erickson ink 5-year fire supression deal with L.A.

Some good news from Erickson Inc., which builds and maintains heavy-lift helicopters outside Central Point.
Erickson Wednesday announced a five-year contract with the City of Los Angeles to provide aerial firefighting services. Hot dry winds easily fan flames into large wildfires, threatening hundreds of homes almost every year.
The new contract includes five one-year optional extensions, as well as a 150-day per year minimum availability, up from 90 days in 2013.
Erickson has had a presence in Southern California over the past 14 years, providing fire fighting support for Los Angeles County and San Diego Gas and Electric.
Erickson will provide one S-64 helicopter equipped with a 2,650-gallon fire suppression system. The Los Angeles Fire Department Air Operations Center at Van Nuys Airport will serve as the staging area for the helitanker.


Costco Wholesale Corp.’s fourth-quarter and fiscal 2014 sales both grew substantially.
The Issaquah, Wash.-based warehouse retailer reported a 9 percent gain in its 16-week fourth quarter sales to  $34.8 billion from $31.8 billion from a similar period ending Sept. 1, 2013.
For the 52-week fiscal year ending Aug. 31, 2014, Costco reported net sales of $110.2 billion, a 7 percent advance from the $102.9 billion recorded in fiscal 2013.

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When it comes to matching national demographics, Medford isn’t even close

The folks at WalletHub have taken national data, categorized it into four broad areas: Socio-demographic, housing, economic, and educational rankings.

The consumer and business research firm then ranked Metropolitan Statistical Areas according to how close they matched up against the overall national figures.

Medford isn’t exactly a mirror image of America, ranking 238 out of 366 MSAs. Our socio-economic level is a bit farther off the national mark at No. 253. We’re closest when it comes to housing at No. 84, and nearly in Pluto’s orbit when it comes to economic status at No. 349. Medford is No. 189 when it comes to education.

When it comes to matching up nationally in gender characteristics, Albuquerque, N.M, tops the list, followed by Tucson, Ariz. Eugene is No. 4.

When it comes to tenure in a residence, Las Cruces, N.M., tops the list, followed by  Springfield, Mo., Great Falls. Mont., and Bend.

There are two universities with both land and sea grant status in the country — Texas A&M and Oregon State. Coincidentally, College Station, Texas, and Corvallis are among the five communities farthest from the nation’s wealth gap reference point. Although it’s not exactly clear what that means, it appears to be a good thing.


A look at the DC-10 air tankers flying out of the Medford airport this summer.

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If you’ve got the time, BLS has a tome for you

Bureau of Labor Statistics reports fall somewhere between less-than-riveting and needing cautionary warnings: “The following may put you to sleep.”

Nonetheless, if you are in business, or want to know where your retail dollars are flowing, a new Prices & Spending report Trends in producer prices between e-commerce and brick-and-mortar retail trade establishments released this month has plenty of interesting tidbits.

It’s here we learn that as recently as 2011, about a third of all retail stores had more than 500 employees, compared with 5 percent of those in the electronic shopping and mail-order houses industry. While 87 percent of online establishments had fewer than 20 employees, that number fell to 56 percent among retailers.

We’re also told well-located brick-and-mortar stores have less need for marketing than those with an electronic storefront. In 2012, for example, electronic and mail-order shopping retailers spent three times, on average, the amount on advertising and promotions per dollar of sales.


With that other Premier bank no longer on the scene, it makes perfect sense for Columbia Commercial Bancorp  to take on the Premier Commercial Bancorp moniker.


Satellite and cable carriers never like to reveal how many poker games they’re playing at once; makes it easier to shift cards from hand to hand that way. As well as its relatively small-potatoes clash with KDRV owner Heartland Media, DISH is pushing chips around with FS1 (the Fox Sports channel), a much bigger player.


Idaho dairy group urges farmers not to give tours to outsiders.

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It’s back, back, back, back to school time

Those trips to Bi-Mart, Target, Freddy’s and Rogue Valley Mall are in the rearview mirror, well mostly.

My daughter begins her final year of college next month, which creates a checklist all of its own.

Back-to-School sales begin within a week of Sirrius XM plays America’s annual anthem “School’s Out” for the thousandth time.

Much of America is back in school, but here in Oregon we generally wait for Labor Day to come in go before shewing the kids back to the classroom.

I’m guessing there are plenty of parents who have procrastinated, putting off the dreaded back-to-school shopping tour.

I’m sure there are plenty of good excuses:

    • “Haven’t put the camping gear away yet.”
    • “The smoke from all those fires is too thick.”
    • “It’s too hot to shop.”
    • “Have you seen my lawn?”
    • “I have to wait for payday.”
    • “My benefits ran out.”
    • “My boyfriend’s car broke down.” 
    • “I can’t find my lottery ticket.”

For those of you who have succumbed to the inevitable and mapped out your clothing and supply journey, I’m curious about your strategies. How much you’re willing to spend vs. how much you end up spending. What you will and won’t do for your kids?

Let me know at Twitter at, on Facebook at or emailing me at

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In the end, you pay for those mega endorsements

I’ll be the first to admit it, I don’t get it.

And I will repeatedly say, I don’t get it.

Sports wear maker Under Armour has reportedly offered Kevin Durant $265 million to endorse its brand.

That’s more than Jeff Bezos paid for The Washington Post. That’s almost as much money as the New York Yankees threw away to sign Alex Rodriguez for 10 years of off-the-field distractions in 2007.

Durant is an NBA star, I’ve never seen him play in person and probably haven’t seen more than 15 seconds on television. I still prize my five minute-chat with Elgin Baylor as a kid and have Wilt Chamberlain’s scrawl in my autograph book, but I long ago lost interest in the NBA when the playoffs stretched into the summer because television networks had little else to offer.

What I don’t get is a clothing manufacturer, which sells a very fine product, throwing money at some rich guy thinking that will make me want to pay five or six times the worth of the product.

Full disclosure: I own and love a 10-year-old Under Armour garment that is showing its age. I don’t need such garments to be cool like some over-priced celebrity; the shirt keeps me warm on cold days. I don’t like spending money on clothes to begin with, so assuredly my wife or kids bought it — hopefully from a closeout rack.

But why do Nike, Adidas, Under Armour, et al throw millions of dollars away on marketing? Or better yet, why in a nation where more and more people can’t make ends meet, do consumers reward these companies by spending three or four times the value of the product?

I can already hear the derisive jeers and sneers from the marketing professors and the investors who benefit from the tried and tested endorsement ruses.

But I just don’t understand why so many people mindlessly play the game and pay hundreds of dollars for shoes, shirts and shorts. In the end, it’s not Nike or Under Armour paying for the mega endorsements, it’s you.


Family Dollar has swatted away Dollar General’s bid, sticking with Dollar Tree deal. Family Dollar didn’t want to mess with possible anti-trust issues.


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