Procrastination and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

I read somewhere before that a good blog is like a good meal: it’s a good balance of appetizers, a main course, and desert. With the weekly roundups, I’ve been serving mostly appetizers. The last main course that I served was a post explaining the historical significance of SpaceX Falcon 9’s vertical takeoff and landing. And the last desert was my 2015 holiday gift guide. As I mentioned, writing the weekly roundups has been a way for me to get back to blogging in general – no big goals as of yet but let’s just get back to building up habits.

Recently, I watched a TED talk by Wait but Why’s Tim Urban.

Despite the fact that we all end up being okay meeting deadlines despite procrastinating, it’s the long-term procrastination, the one without deadlines, that become a source of unhappiness. I share this because in a way, I have been procrastinating on a lot of posts here. Such as, a post on virtual reality which I’ve been meaning to do for a long time. I’ve always wanted to explain password management (as suggested by a friend who’s getting increasingly frustrated with them). I have a draft on why I am an Android convert. Of course, there’s a ton of other things that I’ve been procrastinating on but let’s start with this fairly doable list. And I thought that if I mention it here and by announcing it, perhaps I can rouse my Panic Monster to kick my Instant Gratification Monkey out of the way.

Here are this week’s most relevant news in tech and retail

In tech:

  1. Alphabet: Boston dynamics: Google puts Boston Dynamics up for sale in robotics retreat; Google just scored a huge win against Amazon by landing Apple as a customer (in a deal valued around $400M)
  2. Blast off for Europe Russia Mars mission
  3. Autonomous cars: Baidu will soon test its self-driving cars in the US; A Month After Google’s Car Hit a Bus, Google Filed a Patent for Robot Cars to Detect Buses
  4. Nokia returns to hardware with $60,000 virtual reality camera
  5. Kickstarter buys crowd-funded music community Drip

In retail:

  1. Amazon Is Trying to Patent Paying With a Selfie
  2. Alibaba is working to bring virtual reality into its e-commerce services
  3. Urban Outfitters going bigger with Anthropologie
  4. Nike just unveiled the first real power-lacing sneaker, the HyperAdapt 1.0
  5. Zalando aims for $11B in sales by seeking technology edge
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Amazon’s Kiva robots and the weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

It’s that time of the year when spirits are high despite the cold of winter. But more practically, it’s that time of year when retailers are scrambling to amass the majority of the year’s revenues. This year, retailers went for Cyber Week instead of just Cyber Monday and pre-pre-Black Friday events. But this strategy of trying to one-up each other resulted to shoppers spending less during Thanksgiving and Black Friday. Sales at brick-and-mortar stores within the 2-day period reached $12.29B which is a 0.5% decreased compared to last year. Online spending is on the rise though. According to a report from Adobe that tracked online spend from November 1st to November 28, $32B was spent online – 14% more than in 2013. See my post here regarding mobile spend with special focus on iOS and Android use.

With all the shopping being done, I keep thinking of the scale of the logistics involved. Ahead of Cyber Monday, Amazon released a video detailing a part of those logistics. Meet the Kiva robots from Kiva Systems, a company that Amazon acquired in 2012 for $775M.

But if you prefer the fantastical reason for how those Christmas gifts arrive, you can track Santa via Google.

Here are this week’s most relevant new in tech and retail:

In tech:

  1. New details emerge from last week’s Sony data breach: budgets, layoffs, passwords and  47,000 SSNs exposed
  2. Apple is defending itself against a class-action lawsuit alleging that iTunes prevented iPods from playing music from other digital stores and capturing market share; named plaintiffs down to one
  3. Intel teams up with Google Glass partner Luxxotica to make smart eyewear
  4. Uber just raised $1.2B, valuing the company at $40B
  5. Microsoft and Barnes & Noble end Nook reader partnership

In retail:

  1. The National Retail Federation reports decreasing number of holiday shoppers over Thanksgiving weekend, down 5.2% from 2013; but online spending is on the rise according to IBM and Adobe reports
  2. Financial reports: Leather goods maker Mulberry reports first-half loss; Tiffany shares surge after report of better-than-expected same-store sales increase of 4%
  3. Coach and Brown Shoe Company among bidders to acquire woman’s luxury shoemaker Stuart Weitzman, deal expected to reach between $600M and $700M
  4. Fashion resale site Poshmark hits $100M in revenue, begins luxury goods authentication
  5. Amazon starts selling its own line of diapers and baby wipes, Amazon Elements; available only to Amazon Prime members

What is going on with J. Crew?

Fashion, News and commentaries

Earlier this year, J. Crew rumors ranged between its supposed IPO and a sale to Japan’s Fast Retailing Co. Neither of these were realized. The company’s rumored sale at a hefty price of $5B likely pushed Fast Retailing away. And with the recent quarter report in May showing a net loss of $30.1M, the chance of an IPO is also out the door. Even worse, the company might be forced to reduce the book value of its assets if operating results continue to fall.

The company’s woes don’t necessarily mean bad things for the current CEO, Mickey Drexler. Since becoming CEO in 2003, Drexler has earned about $380M in option awards, salary and bonus. Drexler, along with the other owners and executive management have “extracted more than $650 million of dividends from the company, according to a Feb. 21 report by Moody’s Investors Service,” and most were funded with debt.

When Drexler started as CEO and Jenna Lyons as Creative Director, the J. Crew brand became cool again and earned a cult following among the fashion set. What has happened since?

The 2014 First Quarter numbers so far:

  • Revenues increased 5% to $592.0 million but comparable store sales decreasing by 2%
  • Gross margin down to 38.7% compared to 44.7% in the 2013 first quarter
  • Increased costs (selling, general and administrative expenses) of $195.2 million, or 33.0% of revenues, compared to $178.4 million, or 31.6% of revenues in the 2013 First Quarter
  • Operating income down to $34.0 million, or 5.7% of revenues, compared to $73.6 million, or 13.1% of revenues, in the 2013 First Quarter
  • Net loss of $30.1 million compared with net income of $29.3 million in the first quarter last year
  • Adjusted EBITDA decreased to $64.8 million from $101.0 million in the first quarter last year
  • Inventories were $396 million compared to $308 million at the end of the first quarter last year. Inventories and inventories per square foot increased 28% and 16%, respectively.
  • Cash and cash equivalents were $59 million compared to $92 million at the end of the first quarter last year

(Decrease in cash levels reflect refinancing costs of $29 million and dividends of $19 million. For a complete report, the J. Crew press release is here.)

In the meantime, J. Crew is betting on Asia & the Pacific for its growth, opening 2 new stores in Hong Kong last May. The company is also considering Australia for new store openings.  In response to customer complaints that their prices are too high, the company might create a budget-friendly brand called J. Crew Mercantile, a name which the company filed a trademark application.

Weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

Here are the most relevant news in tech and retail this week.

Weekly roundup 06-13-14

In Tech:

  1. Elon Musk opens up Tesla patents to encourage car makers to build more electric cars
  2. Google acquires Skybox, a satellite imaging startup for half-billion dollars
  3. Amazon quietly introduces music streaming for Prime members
  4. AT&T promises better prices to US regulators with its proposed $48.5B merger with DirecTV
  5. Priceline will buy restaurant reservations site OpenTable for $2.6B in cash

In Retail:

  1. Alibaba continues to build its portfolio before its upcoming IPO in New York, buys UCWeb, one of China’s biggest web browsers
  2. Inditex SA, the owner of Zara, reports 7.3% dip in first-quarter profits but beats estimates as company gains on e-commerce expansions
  3. Lululemon Athletica reports better-than-expected profits per share for fiscal first-quarter but reduces full-year financial forecasts, shares plunge
  4. Alibaba opens US-based shopping site 11Main.com in invitation-only beta
  5. eBay focuses on international expansion, acquires AppTek for its translation technology while PayPal launches PassPort, a website geared for global sales

Weekly roundup in tech and retail

News and commentaries

Here’s what you need to know this week in tech and retail.

In Tech:

  1. Apple’s Beats by Dre acquisition finalized at $3B
  2. Google reveals electric-powered driverless cars
  3. Mary Meeker’s 2014 Internet trends report is out, with big emphasis on mobile growth
  4. Spotify is the latest victim in security breaches, says only one user was affected
  5. Elon Musk and SpaceXunveils new Dragon spacecraft for manned spaceflight

In Retail:

  1. Michael Kors reports fourth fiscal quarter revenue growth of 54%
  2. Flipkart of India raises another $210Mafter Myntra acquisition
  3. Coupang, South Korea’s Amazon, raises $100M with a $1B valuation, led by Sequoia
  4. Amazon finally addresses dispute with Hachette publisher in a blog post
  5. Thomas Tait wins first LVMH Young Designer Award