Digital Movie Deals Abound for Thanksgiving Weekend

In addition to all the offers on TVs and physical discs at brick-and-mortar and online stores, retailers are offering digital movie deals this holiday weekend.

Google Play is offering 99 cent rentals on Thanksgiving Day, including such recent releases as Crazy Rich Asians and Incredibles 2, giving consumers something to watch while they enjoy their turkey coma.

It has also slashed prices on digital purchases to as low as $4.99. Among the movies consumers can buy for less than $5 are The Maze Runner, Wrath of the Titans, Now You See Me, Escape Plan 2, A Prayer Before Dawn and Independence Day: Resurgence.

Other “limited time Cyber Week deals” include various recent hit movies for $9.99, including Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again (regular price, $14.99), Spider-Man: Homecoming ($21.99) and Deadpool 2 ($19.99).

Google Play also is offering access to Starz for $5 a month for three months (the regular price is $8.99 per month).

Redbox is offering deals on numerous digital purchases, including such recent releases as A Quiet Place (cut to $7.99 from $14.99), Sicario: Day of the Soldado (at $9.99 from $18.99), Rampage (at $9.99 from $19.99) and Uncle Drew (at $9.99 from $14.99). The rental kiosk company is also offering deals on used discs based on location.

FandangoNow, the on-demand service owned by Fandango, is offering special deals on digital purchases as well, with such new releases as Deadpool 2, Rampage, A Quiet Place, Daddy’s Home 2 and Ready Player One at under $10.

Trans World Entertainment Amends Credit Facility Regarding F.Y.E. Store Closures

Trans World Entertainment, parent of the f.y.e. (For Your Entertainment) home entertainment retail chain, Nov. 1 announced an amended agreement with Wells Fargo regarding its five-year, $75 million revolving credit facility.

Specifically, TWEC agreed to receive written consent from Wells Fargo prior to closing additional f.y.e. store locations. The company said closures would not exceed 35 locations, or 68 stores in aggregate through the end of the fiscal year (Feb. 2, 2019).

The agreement provides that any store closures from the signing of the amended agreement until the end of the fiscal year shall be made in accordance with liquidators or liquidation consultants “reasonably” acceptable to Wells Fargo.

Mall-based f.y.e. posted an operating loss of $6.6 million in its most-recent fiscal period operating 241 stores. Revenue dropped 15% to $104.6 million from $123.9 million.

Target Offers Free Two-Day Shipping, Other Conveniences on Eve of Holiday Season

In a shot across the bow at online behemoth Amazon, Target Corp. announced it will offer free two-day shipping on hundreds of thousands of items with no minimum purchase and no membership requirement beginning Nov. 1.

Free two-day shipping had previously only been available to customers who spent $35 or used a REDcard.

The chain also announced it will be the first retailer to offer same-day delivery and drive up service coast to coast.

“We want to make the busy holiday season easier for our guests so they can spend more time with their family and friends,” said Target CEO Brian Cornell in a statement. “From same-day delivery with Shipt, drive up, free two-day Shipping and more, no other retailer can match the convenient delivery options that Target will offer this season. When you combine these services with our incredible assortment of exclusive brands, everyday low prices and skilled team, I’m confident Target will be America’s easiest and most enjoyable place to shop for the holidays and beyond.”

During peak periods, if free two-day shipping is not available, Target will offer guests free standard shipping, the company announced. The retailer will offer guests free shipping through Dec. 22.

Consumers in markets across 46 states can have items delivered to their doorstep in as little as one hour with Shipt, Target announced. Guests place an order through the Shipt app or Shipt.com and choose from more than 55,000 Target products. Then, Shipt shoppers can head to a local Target store to complete the order and deliver it to the guest’s door.

The retailer also announced the expansion of its drive-up service to nearly 1,000 stores by the end of October. Customers can place an order in the Target app and have their purchases brought to their car by a team member. Orders are ready within an hour, according to Target, and are delivered to guests’ cars within two minutes of their arrival in the parking lot. Target is making more than 250,000 items available through the service.

Other services, according to Target, include:

  • order pickup, allowing customers to buy online and pick orders up in store on the same day for free;
  • Target restock, allowing customers to place orders for basics such as diapers, paper towels and pantry staples by 7 p.m. Monday through Friday and have them delivered the next day for a fee of $2.99 or at no charge for REDcard holders;
  • and delivery from store, allowing customers to shop in store at select urban locations and have their purchases delivered to their homes that day for a flat fee of $7 (available in Boston, Chicago, New York, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.).

 

Also for the holiday season, low-cost gifts will be highlighted at up to 30 displays throughout each Target store with canopies and signs, such as “Under $5, $10 or $15.”

In the wake of the Toys ‘R’ Us liquidation, Target is also expanding its toy section for the holidays.

Amazon Launches ‘Storefronts’ Small Retailer Platform

Borrowing a page from its Amazon Channels third-party over-the-top video service platform, Amazon Sept. 17 announced the launch of Storefronts – a platform giving Prime members attention to more than 20,000 small and medium-sized retailers selling on Amazon.

While many of these businesses currently participate as Amazon third-party sellers, the Storefronts platform pledges to give them added exposure through national marketing and online videos.

Amazon first began using third-party sellers nearly two decades ago, and today, small and medium-sized businesses. To support the launch of the new store, Amazon is unveiling its first-ever national TV commercial featuring third-party businesses that sell on Amazon.

With more than a million small and medium-sized businesses in the U.S. selling on Amazon, the ad gives consumers a glimpse into a real business on Amazon and how Amazon is actually a ‘big collection of small’ businesses. The spot shows how Amazon helps businesses get their products to customers all over the world.

“Since we started selling on Amazon in October 2016, our sales have nearly doubled,” said Holly Rutt, co-founder of Little Flower Soap Co., the Chelsea, Michigan business owner featured in the national TV ad.

“Due to our success, we have been able to hire new team members from our community, including full and part time jobs. We believe that customers like to know the story behind what they’re buying. When there is worry about creating jobs, it’s reassuring for customers to know their purchases are helping sustain jobs in the U.S.,” Rutt said.

Earlier this year, Amazon said small and medium-sized businesses selling on the ecommerce platform are estimated to have created more than 900,000 jobs worldwide. In 2017, more than 300,000 U.S.-based small and medium-sized businesses started selling on Amazon.

Amazon Prime Day: Lots of Home Entertainment Deals

Amazon’s website and app may have glitches. Fulfillment center workers in Europe are on strike. But that hasn’t put much of dent (thus far) into the ecommerce behemoth’s 36-hour “Prime Day” retail extravaganza, which ends July 17 at 11:59 p.m. PT.

“Nobody does any business in July … Amazon intends to take over the world, and they’re doing a pretty darn good job of it,” retail consultant Jan Kniffen told CNBC last year.

Day 1 (July 16) saw Amazon’s stock hit a record $1,841.95 per share, making founder/CEO Jeff Bezos the world’s richest person (cracking $150 billion in net worth) in modern history – exceeding No. 2 Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates’ net worth by $55 billion!

Amazon shares declined following Netflix’s subscriber growth miss to close at $1,822.49 per share.

Amazon’s website suffered temporary outages at the begin of Prime Day, which analysts attributed to user demand and resulted in some lost sales.

“I think it [was] more of an impact on the customer experience and consumers who tried to get on the site and couldn’t find anything and realized they would have to come back,” Sucharita Kodali with Forrester Research told CNBC.

Prime Day’s offerings feature myriad packaged media deals, including hundreds of $14.99 4K UHD Blu-ray movies such as The Dark Crystal, Terminator 2: Judgement Day, Batman v. Superman – Dawn of Justice, John Wick, The Incredible Hulk, Apollo 13, The Accountant, Starship Troopers, E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial, Dredd, Battleship, The Mummy, Lone Survivor, Everest, King Kong, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind, among others.

Boxed sets include, Paramount Home Media Distribution’s The Godfather 3-Movie Collection($10.20), HBO’s Game of Thrones Seasons 1-7($74.99), and Warner Bros. Home Entertainment’s Harry Potter Complete 8-Film Collection 4K UHD($79.98).

Streaming media deals include Fire TV Stick with Alexa voice remote ($19.99), Fire TV with 4K Ultra HD and Alexa voice remote ($34.99), and Fire TV Cube with wireless Echo speakers ($89.99).

TCL 32-inch and 40-inch Roku TVs for $129.99 ($70 off) and $194.99 ($95 off), respectively. Toshiba 50-inch Amazon Fire TV Edition for $289.99 ($110 off), and LG 55-inch and 65-inch OLED TVs for $1,696.99 ($300 off) and $2,296.99, respectively.

 

Comcast Announces Xfinity Retail Store

Comcast May 21 announced the launch of the new interactive Xfinity retail store.

The store is “created to provide customers an immersive destination to discover and address service needs for Xfinity products and services,” according to a company release.

The first locations of the new store format recently opened in Pueblo, Colo.; Aventura, Fla.; Henrico, Va.; Chattanooga, Tenn.; and Tucson, Ariz.

“We want to bring our customers an incredible shopping experience, which showcases the power and innovation of our Xfinity products and demonstrates how they work together,” said Tom DeVito, SVP, retail sales and service, Comcast Cable. “We have heard from our customers that they want to touch and feel our Xfinity products and understand their capabilities as they make decisions for their own home. Our Xfinity stores are the place to do that.”

Comcast has built or re-designed more than 250 new stores since 2015, according to the company. The company will open more than 50 of the new and enhanced Xfinity stores in high-traffic shopping centers across the service footprint in 2018.

“Comcast’s ultimate goal is for customers to be within a 15 minute drive of a Xfinity store,” according to the release.

Xfinity stores are designed strategically by product area —Xfinity Mobile, Xfinity X1, Xfinity Home and Xfinity Internet.

  • At Xfinity Mobile, customers can purchase new mobile phones or bring in their own Apple devices and choose a data plan.
  • At Discover xFi, the Xfinity home WiFi experience, customers can learn how to view and control network devices through the app, site or voice remote in the Xfinity Internet zone.
  • At X1, the next-generation video platform, the store features a living room environment, so customers can try the voice remote and see how X1 works firsthand.
  • The Connected Home Zone section showcases how Xfinity Home shows customers how they can control IoT devices from their phone, tablet or Xfinity Home touchscreen.

Customers can visit the store to upgrade or swap equipment, ask questions about their Xfinity service, troubleshoot equipment or pay a bill at an in-store kiosk. In-store appointments can be scheduled online on their local store website.

New Xfinity stores also have a dedicated space for Comcast Business customers and prospects to come in and discuss their business technology needs with an expert.

Amazon Bows In-Car Delivery

Want Black Panther on disc but can’t find a video store? Amazon will deliver the movie to the trunk of your car.

Amazon April 24 announced that Amazon Key, the service that enables in-home delivery and keyless guest access, now gives Prime members the option to receive deliveries inside their vehicle.

With Amazon Key In-Car, Prime members with compatible vehicles can have packages delivered inside their cars when parked in a publicly accessible area, typically at their home or workplace.

The service – like Prime Video – is available free to Prime members, beginning in 37 cities and surrounding areas across the U.S. Delivery is available for items sold on Amazon and works with same-day, two-day and standard shipping.

To use the service, Prime members download the Amazon Key app and then link their Amazon account with their connected car service account.

On delivery day, the app lets customers check if they’ve parked within range of the delivery location and provides notifications with the expected 4-hour delivery time window. The app also notifies customers when the delivery is on its way, and the package has been delivered. Customers can track when their car was unlocked, relocked and rate the in-car delivery.

“Since launching Amazon Key last November, we’ve safely delivered everything from cameras to collectable coins inside the home,” Peter Larsen, VP of delivery technology, said in a statement.

In-car delivery is available to customers with a compatible 2015 or newer Chevrolet, Buick, GMC or Cadillac vehicle with an active OnStar account, and customers with a 2015 or newer Volvo vehicle with an active Volvo On Call account. Support for even more vehicle makes and models will be added over time.

Amazon said it uses “multiple layers of verification” to ensure the security of in-car deliveries. Each time a delivery driver requests access to a customer’s vehicle, Amazon verifies that an authorized driver is at the right location with the right package, through an encrypted authentication process. Once this process is successfully completed, the car is then unlocked.

Customers receive a notification via the app after the delivery is completed and the vehicle is relocked. No special codes or keys are ever provided to delivery drivers. For added peace of mind, in-car delivery is backed by Amazon’s Happiness Guarantee.

“Receiving a package securely and reliably in your car, without you having to be there, is something we think many people will appreciate. Our partnership with Amazon now makes this possible for a majority of our customers in the U.S.,” said Atif Rafiq, chief digital officer at Volvo Cars.

In addition to enabling in-car delivery, Amazon Key offers customers keyless entry, remote lock and unlock, and guest access, as well as the option to have packages delivered inside the home.

Trans World Entertainment Ups Q4 Loss

Trans World Entertainment Corp. March 22 reported a fourth-quarter (ended Feb. 3) loss of $32.3 million compared to net income of $8.9 million during the previous-year period. Revenue dipped slightly to $145.4 million from almost $147 million.

The increased loss was primarily due to a one-time non-cash $29.1 million impairment charge for certain long-lived fye assets.

New York-based TWEC operates mall-based “fye” (For Your Entertainment) retail stores and etailz.com, an online retailer primarily selling through Amazon.

Retail stores, which sell packaged media, consumer electronics, video games and trend, saw same-store sales fall 10%, with revenue dropping 16.4% to $92.4 million from $110.5 million last year. The company operated 260 stores at the end of 2017 compared to 284 stores at the end of 2016.

CEO Mike Feurer said the fye continues to reduce “slow-moving” merchandise while upping “newer assortments” product categories. He said retail stores continue to be negatively impacted by declining foot traffic in malls and declining physical media sales. He said the company is the process of “re-inventing” the fye brand.

Specifically, lifestyle (trend) same-store sales declined 3%, representing 41% ($37.4 million) of sales compared to 38% last year. Electronics dipped 3%, representing 16% ($14.7 million) of revenue compared to 12% the previous year. Media sales (video and music) fell 17%, representing 43% ($39.6 million) of revenue compared to 50% last year. Music sales dropped 18% and video sales fell 16%.

“As we work through the assortment changes needed to stabilize the fye business, we have maintained focus on the balance sheet, ending the year in a favorable cash position to last year, with $31 million on hand and no debt,” Feurer said in a statement.

Meanwhile, etailz.com, the ecommerce unit acquired in 2016 for $75 million, reported a net loss of $675,000 compared to income of $788,000 a year ago. Revenue increased 45% to $53 million from $36.4 million.

Nonetheless, Feuer said etailz continues to capitalize on the “rapid growth” of marketplace sales, affording TWEC with the opportunity to benefit from “explosive” long-term trends underway in retail.

 

Barnes & Noble Narrows Q3 Loss

In an age of ecommerce, Amazon and free shipping, Barnes & Noble is putting on a brave face despite fiscal appearances of a “dead retail chain walking.”

The chain reported a third-quarter (ended Jan. 27) loss of $63.5 million, which was an improvement from a loss of $70.2 million during the previous-year period. Revenue declined 5.3% to $1.2 billion from $1.3 billion.

Specifically, retail sales topped $1.2 billion, down from $1.27 last year. Nook segment revenue, which includes digital, consumer electronics, dropped almost 20% to $30.9 million from $38.4 million.

The declines underscored a same-store decrease of 5.8% primarily due to lower foot traffic. Alarming, considering the period included the winter holidays when even non-readers frequent bookstores – and merchandise includes DVD/Blu-ray Disc movies and TV shows.

“While we were disappointed with our holiday sales, comparable store sales trends did improve in January,” CEO Demos Parneros said in a statement.

Perneros is Barnes & Noble’s fourth CEO since 2013, upgrading from the COO position last April after former CEO Ronald Boire was fired.

The executive is saying all the right things, including strengthening the core business by “enhancing the customer value proposition,” improving profitability through an “aggressive expense management,” which he says will fund growth initiatives, simplify the retail experience and innovate for the future.

“We have initiated a strategic turnaround plan that is centered on growing the business and enhancing shareholder value,” Perneros said. “In the short term we are focused on stabilizing sales, improving productivity and reducing expenses.”

In February, the chain implemented a companywide expense reduction plan, including a new store labor model that provides greater flexibility by eliminating tasks and allowing employees to focus more on customers. It estimates these actions will result in annual cost savings of about $40 million.

But short of becoming Amazon, which launched as an online bookseller during the dotcom era, B&N is treading water.

Indeed, purchasing Oscar-nominee DVD, Darkest Hour, at B&N.com costs $25.17 — and $17.96 on Amazon.

F.Y.E. Holiday Sales Slump 12%

The For Your Entertainment (f.y.e.) retail chain Jan. 4 reported a 12% decrease in winter holiday sales to $72 million for the nine-week period through Dec. 31, 2017, compared to $81.8 million in the previous-year period.

One of the last (primarily mall-based) entertainment retail chains in operation, f.y.e. saw segment revenue drop 21% when factoring in 7% decline in operating stores.

Corporate parent Trans World Entertainment Corp. said f.y.e. sales were further impacted by an underperforming box office, lower mall foot traffic, in addition to declining market demand for packaged media, among other factors.

“This negatively impacted our lifestyle categories as well,” CEO Mike Feurer said in a statement.

The CEO said f.y.e remains in the midst of “continued structural challenges” while redoubling efforts to differentiate entertainment merchandise and consumer experience.

“[We remain] focused on rightsizing our expenses and inventory levels,” he said.

Meanwhile, ecommerce subsidiary etailz.com, while sells merchandise largely through Amazon, saw revenue increase 42% to $36 million from $25.3 million last year.

Consolidated sales decreased 7% to $108 million, compared to $116.1 million last year.

For the 11 months in the fiscal year, consolidated sales increased 26% to $406 million from $322 million. F.Y.E. sales declined 15% to $248 million from $291.7 million. Etailz.com revenue topped $158 million.