Monday, December 29, 2008

Foresight is 2020

Mobile Phones Will Be the Primary Internet Connection by 2020

In a December 2008 survey, 77 percent of Internet activists, developers, and commentators said they believed that mobile phones would be the primary tool for accessing the Internet within the next 12 years.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project survey asked 578 leading Internet experts and 618 other respondents whether they agreed with several "scenarios about the effect of the Internet on social, political, and economic life in the year 2020."

The survey asked respondents to say whether they mostly agreed or mostly disagreed with this scenario:

"The mobile phone is the primary connection tool for most people in the world. In 2020, while "one laptop per child" and other initiatives to bring networked digital communications to everyone are successful on many levels, the mobile phone—now with significant computing power—is the primary Internet connection and the only one for a majority of the people across the world, providing information in a portable, well-connected form at a relatively low price. Telephony is offered under a set of universal standards and protocols accepted by most operators internationally, making for reasonably effortless movement from one part of the world to another."

Some 77 percent of the experts and 81 percent of all respondents mostly agreed with the statement.

While the survey is highly speculative, it is clear that mobile Internet browsing and, therefore, mobile commerce will become an important aspect of every online retailers business in little more than a decade.
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More E-vidence of the Paradigm Shift...

The Washington Post's Chadwick Matin wrote an interesting story last Friday providing further insight into the paradigm shift that is occurring within the retail bricks and mortar world. 

Call him a "Mall Bearer" as he's basically saying that the death of the malls is e-minent.... 

Here's some of what he has to read the article in it's entirety click the title below...   

Tear Down That Mall -
It's hard to figure out what's changed about malls since then. Malls are a testament to the kind of consumer thinking that got us into the recessionary mess we're in today, after all. And that's why we need to close every single one of them.

Already, malls are in a considerable amount of trouble. Shopping centers on the block are selling for 25 to 35 percent less than they did a year ago. Retail vacancies are on the rise; nationally, 6.6 percent of stores were empty in the third quarter of 2008, a 20 percent increase over the same quarter last year and the highest rate since 2002. Much of the pain is interwoven with the retail sector, where analysts estimate 148,000 stores will have been closed in 2008.

And it will only get worse. Mall stalwarts like KB Toys, Steve & Barry's, and Linens 'N Things are all closing. The recession is expected to rage through 2009, and retail chains will probably be looking at dismal holiday numbers. A mall's chief purpose these days is to be there come the holidays. Now that we're beyond that season, many stores will need to shutter in the new year.

Every store that closes has an impact on the shops left behind. Fewer stores means less foot traffic; less foot traffic means less window shopping; less window shopping means fewer impulse buys. It's a positive-feedback loop that, for malls, is actually negative.

Thus, several of the biggest American mall owners are fighting to stave off bankruptcy as bad bets in real estate have weighed down their ledgers. But, just like with cash-starved families looking to sell their homes, buyers will now only purchase malls for a lowered price since the industry's outlook is so bleak. This would entail huge losses for the mall owners, so they continue to balk. At some point, though, something has to give.

And when it does, there's going to be major consolidation in the industry. Our current economic state is simply not able to sustain so many meccas of merchandise. Some malls will likely close as fewer and fewer chains are willing to spread themselves so thin. Because, really, if Starbucks isn't expanding, then nobody else is, either.

But why just consolidate? Let's close them all. I'm not saying that all of their tenants should close. Instead, the stores that once filled the malls should go and fill other empty storefronts dispersed across the city. Call it the great chain-store diaspora.

E-ditor's Note:  I call it E-vidence that the paradigm shift is fact, it's "virtually" guarant "e"d.

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Economic Confidence Improving?

Discover reports economic confidence improves among small merchants
Editor's Note:  Small Biz Owners being "cautiously optimistic" is good news amidst a flurry of see the data, click here to download in Microsoft Word Format.

Riverwoods, Ill., Dec. 29, 2008 -- After falling to its lowest measurement ever in November, economic confidence among small business owners rose slightly in December. The Discover(R) Small Business WatchSM rose to 72.8 in December, up 5.3 points from November. The index was buoyed by increased optimism that their own business prospects are improving and an indication that more will increase spending on business development in the next six months.

"While we saw small improvements in economic confidence almost across the board this month, the mood still remains cautious," said Ryan Scully, director of Discover's business credit card. "Most small business owners still believe that it will be at least into 2010 before the economy recovers."

December Key Findings:

  • 21 percent of small business owners believe that economic conditions for their businesses are getting better, up from 15 percent in November, which was the all-time low in the 29-month history of the Watch. Fifty-one percent feel the conditions are getting worse, which is down from 54 percent last month.
  • 24 percent of owners say they plan to increase spending on business development over the next six months. This is an increase from 20 percent who said the same in November. Forty-seven percent say they are planning to decrease spending on business development compared to 51 percent last month.
  • Cash flow issues decreased slightly in December as 42 percent of owners say they held off paying some bills in the past 90 days. Forty-four percent said the same in November.
  • 63 percent rate the economy as poor, down 2 percent from November; only 6 percent rate the economy excellent or good, the second-lowest rating in this category in the history of the Watch.
  • 12 percent feel the economy is getting better, which is the highest in this category since August 2008. The number of small business owners who think the U.S. economy is getting worse decreased by two percentage points to 70 percent in December; and 14 percent think it is staying the same.

69% of Small Business Owners Think U.S. Recovery Will Take At Least 12 Months

As the new year approaches, small business owners remain cautious about the amount of time it will take the economy to crawl out of its slump. Forty-two percent of owners anticipate that economic recovery will take between 12 and 24 months, while 27 percent believe that it will take longer than 24 months. Twenty-three percent think that the recovery will take less than 12 months.

"Economic confidence has been declining for the past year, and small business owners continue to be resilient by doing whatever it takes, including not relying on credit and taking home less pay," Scully said. "It's not surprising that they seem to be buckling down for a long recovery since more than half of them have been telling us the economy is getting worse every month for the past 22 months."

Government Bailout Support Mixed

  • Sixty-eight percent of small business owners say they do not expect that government bailout assistance to banks will help their businesses in the next six months.
  • Fifty-five percent of small business owners do not believe U.S. automakers deserve a chance to qualify for some form of federal bailout assistance, while 33 percent say they would support a bailout for automakers and 12 percent answered "not sure."
  • When it comes to themselves, 48 percent of small business owners say they should be entitled to federal bailout assistance, while 35 percent didn't think small businesses deserved federal bailout help and 16 percent were not sure.

Decreased Sales Pose Biggest Threat

When asked where they have felt the most negative stress on their business operations in the past year, 30 percent said decreased sales; followed by 23 percent who cited higher operating costs; 17 percent said taxes; 7 percent said financing and credit, and 17 percent said their business has not been under stress in the past year.

It appears fewer small business owners are extending credit to their customers. In December, 25 percent said they extend credit, and 72 percent of those who extend credit say that they have customers who have delayed a payment or asked if they could delay a payment in the last three months. In September 2007, 30 percent of small business owners were extending credit to their customers and 64 percent had received delayed payments or requests to delay payments.

The views and opinions expressed by small business owners and consumers who participate in the Small Business Watch survey are their own and do not necessarily reflect those of Discover Financial Services or its affiliates.

About the Small Business Watch

The Discover Small Business Watch is a monthly index measuring the relative economic confidence of U.S. small business owners who employ less than five employees, a segment that consists of 22 million businesses producing more than a trillion dollars in annual receipts. The Watch is based on a national random survey of 1,000 small business owners. It is commissioned by the Discover Business Card, which strives to offer the best business credit card for American small businesses, and is conducted by Rasmussen Reports, LLC ( ), an independent survey research firm. The numeric index is calculated by assigning values to responses to a set of six consistent questions. The base value of the Watch was established at 100.0 based on surveys conducted in August of 2006. In addition to generating the index, the Small Business Watch surveys small business viewpoints on key business drivers, and also surveys 4,000 consumers to gauge purchasing behavior and attitudes towards small businesses. For past results and small business survey data, visit . For information on Discover Business Card, visit .

About Discover Financial Services

Discover Financial Services (NYSE: DFS) is a leading credit card issuer and electronic payment services company with one of the most recognized brands in U.S. financial services. The company operates the Discover Card, America's cash rewards pioneer. Since its inception in 1986, the company has become one of the largest card issuers in the United States. Its payments businesses consist of the Discover Network, with millions of merchant and cash access locations; PULSE, one of the nation's leading ATM/debit networks; and Diners Club International, a global payments network with acceptance in 185 countries and territories. For more information, visit .

Source: Company press release.

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"Amazon" Thanksgiving Day Parade?

Amazon had it's "best season ever." (results from Macy's 2008 holiday season results have yet to be released)  But make no doubt about it.  Macy's  is in trouble.  Sure, they just negotiated looser terms on its $2 billion in currently unused bank loans, but...

There's about $950 million of debt coming due in 2009 and the company still has $226 million of debt maturing in 2010,  $650 million coming due in 2011 and $1.3 billion payable in 2012, along with its bank line of revolving credit. 

So the "paradigm shift" I've been blogging about for months, could, in this case, be called a "parade-igm" shift.

Will we see the annual Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade shift into the Amazon or Costco Day parade?  Don't be "amazed" when/if they put Amaz-on it.

Consider the following press release from Amazon on it's "best ever" holiday season...

(SEATTLE) — Online retailer Inc. called this holiday season its "best ever," saying Friday that it saw a 17 percent increase in orders on its busiest day — a rare piece of good news in a season that has been far from merry for most retailers, including online businesses.

Amazon customers ordered more than 6.3 million items on Dec. 15, compared with roughly 5.4 million on its peak day last year, the company said. It shipped more than 5.6 million products on its best day, a 44 percent surge over 2007, when it shipped about 3.9 million on its busiest day.

Amazon's best-sellers included the Nintendo Wii game console, Samsung's 52-inch LCD HDTV and Apple Inc.'s iPod touch.

Analysts agreed Amazon's report was good news for the online shopping giant, but they were divided over whether the results indicate strength in online commerce in general.

Forrester Research analyst Sucharita Mulpuru said Amazon's experience shows the current economy is favoring discount retailers, both online and offline. "The Amazon story doesn't surprise me because Amazon has always traditionally been a leader on price, and they're one of the first places consumers go when they're looking for things online," Mulpuru said. "In many ways they're like the Wal-Mart of the online world."

Holiday sales typically account for 30 percent to 50 percent of a retailer's annual total, but rising unemployment, home foreclosures, the stock market decline and other economic worries led many shoppers to slash their shopping budgets this year.

SpendingPulse — a division of MasterCard Advisors — said its preliminary data show that online sales fell 2.3 percent compared with the 2007 holiday season, while retail sales overall fell 5.5 percent to 8 percent, including sales of cars and gasoline. The decline was 2 percent to 4 percent when auto and gas sales are excluded.

Online shopping may have gotten a boost from winter storms during last two weeks before Christmas, which made travel to brick-and-mortar stores more difficult.

And, although Amazon's orders rose, the company didn't say whether orders were, on average, worth more or less than last year. Spokeswoman Sally Fouts said the company would release revenue results in its fourth-quarter earnings report, due in about a month.

But she said this was Amazon's "best season ever."

Orders to Amazon on the peak day of its holiday season have jumped in the double-digit percentage range for at least the past 5 years, according to data released by the Seattle, Wash.-based company since 2002. Last year, Amazon's orders spiked 35 percent to 5.4 million at their peak, from 4 million in 2006.

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Dismal Holiday Numbers

Discounts Not Enough to Revive Online Retail Sales -
The Wall Street Journal reports on a dismal holiday season for retailers.  Based on the fact that the holiday season constitutes upwards of 30% of annual sales for some bricks and mortar retailers, this is indeed bad news.  Combined with the credit crisis, this could be the a death blow for some.  But it doesn't surprise me in the very least.  The paradigm shifting in consumer shopping behavior would have dealt a nasty blow to some bricks and mortar retailers in a mediocre economy.  In this one, you can start writing the obits...

Here's a snippet from WSJ...

Online sales held up better than the rest of the retail market during the dismal holiday period, but the season is still likely to go down as one of the worst on record for the traditionally booming e-commerce sector.

While online spending was down just 2% from Nov. 1 through Christmas Eve compared with a drop of 5.5% to 8% for retail as a whole, e-commerce strength wasn't widespread. Instead, it was clustered around several big-name Web sites such as Inc., Apple Inc. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. Online sales were also fueled by discounts that aren't likely to continue.

Overall, in a sector where sales have historically increased 20% annually, this is the first holiday season where online sales haven'tgrown. E-commerce sales were "not amazing by any stretch," says JohnAiken, managing director and head of equity research for Majestic Research.

Many traditionally strong ecommerce sites also ended up losing
  visitors in what is typically their busiest period. Internet auction site eBay Inc.'s traffic dropped 16% between early November and mid-December, while Best Buy Co.'s site experienced a 17% decline in visitor traffic, according to comScore Inc., which tracks Internet activity. The number of visitors to e-commerce Web sites during the period grew less than 1%, compared  with growth of about 5% typically.

continue reading at WSJ
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Top 15 eCommerce Sites in November

Amazon...and you're done!

Amazon overtakes eBay as most-visited retail site, Nielsen says

For the first time, passed in November as the most popular retail destination on the Internet, according to Nielsen Online. Kmart had the highest percentage gain in "unique visitors", up 35% while Overstock's had 7 million less unique visitors compared to last year, a 36% drop. (wonder what caused that?)

In addition to Kmart's 35% upswing, other double digit gainer's included Wal*Mart (13%) Sears (10%) Netflix (13%) Kohl's (26%) and the Home Depot (15%)

Dell (-10%) and Circuit City (-13%%) joined Overstock as the only double-digit losers.

Here are the top 15 retail web sites in November, with unique visitors in millions this year and last and the percentage change. Double digit growth is bold, regression is in red, double digit losers are red bold...

Amazon, 57,682, 53,630, 8%
eBay, 55,438, 59,041, -6%
Wal-Mart, 39,420, 35,003, 13%
Target, 35,902, 34,611, 4%
Best Buy, 22,138, 22,736, -3%
Sears, 19,541, 17,805, 10%
Dell, 17,058, 18,918, -10%
JCPenney, 16,933, 15,929, 6%
Circuit City, 16,609, 19,135, -13%
Netflix, 13,538, 11,954, 13%
Kohl's, 13,257, 10,516, 26%
ToysRUs, 13,041, 13,726, -5%
The Home Depot, 12,169, 10,608, 15%, 11,812, 18,419, -36%
Kmart, 11,713, 8,693, 35%
*Unique visitors count only once each shopper who came to a site, no matter how many times the shopper visited.

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Gemalto President Calls for EMV in US

Paul Beverly, President of Gemalto North America,  in an  article published in Contactless News, is calling for the US to follow the lead taken by the rest of the world and implement EMV standards here in the US.

Editor's Note: The name EMV comes from the initial letters of Europay, MasterCard and VISA, the three companies which originally cooperated to develop the standard. EMV is a standard for interoperation of IC cards ("Intergrated Circuit (Chip) cards") and IC capable POS terminals and ATM's, for authenticating credit and debit card payments.  To learn more about Gemalto, click their logo above left...

He questions whether there's such a thing as "acceptable fraud losses" amidst the rising tide of criminal activity associated with "magstripe" cards.

Here's what Mr. Beverly has to say:  He starts us out with some some interesting statistics from 2008:

  • The Federal Trade Commission estimates that as many as nine million Americans have their identities stolen each year.
  • The Privacy Rights Clearinghouse estimates 245 million records have been compromised due to security breaches since January 2005.
  • The sting operation by security software provider Symantec showed stolen credit card accounts are sold like commodities online, at a quantity discount of one dollar if you buy 100 or more. These are for full packages with name and address, card expirations and CVV2 security numbers.
  • Gemalto’s own “Digital Trust Barometer” survey showed 57% of Americans are afraid someone will steal account passwords when banking online, 38% do not trust online payments, 74% are afraid of identity theft and 44% are afraid of online bank account hijacking.
I think it’s time executives in financial services; retail and online services start questioning a well-worn mantra that fraud losses are an acceptable cost of business.

When fraud and fear are undermining consumer confidence in e-commerce, as it is today, at some point that logic becomes bad business.  (continue reading at Contactless News)

Editor's Note:  I agree and the same "well-worn mantra" is hurting consumers as much, if not more, than it's hurting etailers.  (The only winner's here are Visa/MC and the banks who profit more from an unsecure transaction because of the higher interchange fees that come with them. )

Starting an EMV initiative here in the US would take years and cost billions.  Starting an Internet PIN debit initiative would take months and save millions.  What's unacceptable  is online debit for online shopping.  Fraud losses can be significantly reduced by making PIN based transactions "acceptable."

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