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Toys “R” Us Withdraws Proposal for IPO

Toys “R” Us has withdrawn its proposal for an initial public offering, according to filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The big-box toy retailer originally filed plans for an IPO on May 28, 2010 with the SEC. The company pulled the IPO on Friday due to “unfavorable market conditions, and the company’s recently announced executive leadership transition,” according to a news release.

The company had postponed its IPO in 2011 due to weak market conditions, and it has continued to struggle with weak sales. Last month, Gerald Storch announced he would step down as the Toys “R” Us CEO and chairman of the board, after joining the company in 2006 following an acquisition by investment group Bain Capital Partners, Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Co., and Vornado Realty Trust.

On Friday, the company released its fourth quarter and full-year financial results for last year. In the fourth quarter, net sales were $5.8 billion, a decrease of $155 million compared to the prior year. For the full year, net sales were $3.5 billion, a decrease of 2.1 percent versus the prior year, driven by a comparable store net sales decline of 4.5 percent.

A Sunny Horizon for Retailers?

Are better days just over the horizon? After a Toy Fair where everyone seemed generally upbeat about where the economy was heading — a notch just above “cautiously optimistic” — today comes news from the National Retail Federation that imports are expected to rise by 13 percent this month over March 2009, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released today by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates. Not only that, increases are expected in April (estimated 19 percent), May (17 percent), June (25 percent), and July (20 percent). February posted 1.08 million twenty-foot equivalent units, an increase of 29 percent over last year.

“These numbers show that retailers continue to anticipate improvements in the U.S. economy,” NRF Vice President for Supply Chain and Customs Policy Jonathan Gold said. “This is very different from the past two years when merchants were continually cutting their imports in an effort to manage inventory.”

Hackett Associates founder Ben Hackett said the U.S. economy appears to be in true recovery rather than the mid-point upswing of a double-dip recession, and said the growth rates “appear to be healthy.”

Keep your fingers crossed… except to use that debit card.

Americans Will Spend Tax Refunds This Year, According to NRF Survey

After two years of paying down debt and skipping family vacations, many Americans plan to cautiously start spending their tax refunds once again, according to the National Retail Federation. The NRF 2010 Tax Returns Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, found that 43.9 percent of Americans expecting a refund will pay down debt, fewer than the 48.0 percent in 2009. However, only 65.5 percent of tax payers are expecting a refund, down from 68.4 percent last year.
According to the survey, 12.5 percent of people expecting a refund plan to treat themselves or their families to a major purchase such as a new television, furniture, or car, up from 11.0 percent last year. Others will stash their refund away in savings (40.3%), put it towards everyday expenses (28.8%), or go on vacation (10.0%).
“A little bit of ‘free money’ will go a long way for Americans this year,” says Tracy Mullin, president and CEO, NRF. “Retailers planning special promotions over the next few months may find that shoppers are a bit more receptive to opening up their wallets than they have been for the past year.”
According to the survey, 60.6 percent of Americans filed their taxes by the end of February, meaning that many tax returns have already been received or are on the way. An additional 24.4 percent will file in March and 15.0 percent will wait until the last minute and file in April.

What are you spending your tax refund on? Have you filed yet? Leave us some comments and let us know.

Cyber Monday Sales Up 14%?

CNN Money is reporting that Cyber Monday sales were up 14% from last year, which is a good sign for the economy—though how good is unclear the moment. With total Black Friday and Saturday sales up .9%, according to ShopperTrek (via the Chicago Tribune), the 14% jump in online purchases certainly shows that sales are high enough not to cause too much of a panic, in the industry as a whole. The question is how much of the online shopping has permanently replaced in-store shopping. Were Black Friday sales up .5% because the economy was bad, or because people preferred to shop online? This is one of those cases where we’ll know more next year. If in-store shopping returns to a healthier rate of growth (at least 3%, and that’s modest) and online shopping continues to grow at around 14%, it’s a sign that the main factor was the economy. But if online shopping grows by less than 14% (within a few points) next year, we can be sure that people used Cyber Monday to replace Black Friday, not supplement it.

Make no mistake, though—this is good news.

There’s already one winner today

MediaBistro’s GalleyCat blog is reporting that Amazon.com’s stock has hit record heights on Cyber Monday. See, everything is fine! Or good enough. But seriously, this may lend some credence to the “It rained in the Northeast, and that’s why Black Friday sales were relatively low” theory. Obviously we’ll know more tomorrow, but this is a good sign.

Welcome to Cyber Monday! And welcome to our blog!

Good morning, readers!

Today marks the first day we’ll be updating The Licensing Blog, our new, up-to-the minute take on the licensing world. Here we’ll try to get you the information that’s too urgent for our print issues and needs a little more context than we can give it on Twitter or Facebook. Whenever something happens in the licensing industry, come here to put it in context. Or just stop by to see what we’re working on. Either way, we’re glad to have you reading.

The big news today for e-tailers is that it’s Cyber Monday. The bad news is that it’s getting harder and harder to make any sense of Black Friday figures. While there was a small increase over last year’s figures (.5%), there are a few variables. On the positive side, that number might have been punished by rain in the Northeast, says Consumerist. (Which could bode well today). On the negative side, it’s possible that in order to keep sales high, large retailers were willing to take a loss, says Hot Air. And it’s likely that such an increase did not pace inflation, meaning there was actually a small loss. But if this really is the low point of the recession—or, at least, the lone Black Friday to fall within the crater caused by the subprime bust, etc.—these numbers shouldn’t be seen as a long-term problem. We were expecting this.

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