OVERVIEW OF THE WEEK – CORPORATE

A number of interesting items were in the news last week, as new happenings in the corporate world:

  • Malls and retail – Retail sales bounced back in March and the 1.6% seasonally adjusted rise was the largest since September 2017.  Macy’s and Nordstrom both reported good increases, giving some hope that these stores, who frequently serve as anchors in the nation’s malls, would assist malls in bouncing back, as well.  However, some analysts (ref. WSJ) say that, because there are still a number of stores closing, such as Payless, Gymboree and Charlotte Russe, they don’t see malls as “out of the woods yet.”  Mall developers, however, say that they “have and will continue to fill these spaces with new and exciting uses.”
  • High-level changes in the corporate world include: 1 – Two women executives who have been promoted and are seen as in a good position to lead JPMorgan Chase in the future – these are Marianne Lake who will serve as chief of all consumer lending at the bank (formerly CFO) and Jennifer Piepszak who will take over the CFO position.  2 – Ford Motor Company is shuffling roles for two of its top executives, splitting duties more clearly between its traditional car-making business and the mobility services that the company hopes will drive growth in the future:  Jim Farley will become president of new businesses, technology and strategy; and Joe Hinrichs will be named as president of automotive, in charge of Ford’s global vehicle-making operations. 3 – Hubert Joly, CEO of Best Buy since 2012, is stepping down from that role and turning it over to CFO Corie Barry – Joly says that he’s pleased with the company’s recent progress in effecting a much-needed turnaround and feels that the time is right to step aside.  He will remain an employee and serve as executive chairman of the board.
  • Franchises – WeWork has decided to adopt a business model made popular by McDonald’s decades ago and go with franchises, asking others to do the leasing and building under franchise arrangements.  As one of the first of these arrangements, the company will sell its 130 Japanese locations to meeting room company TKP, who will have “an exclusive master franchise agreement for the country.”  The one downside of franchise arrangements, as countless companies who have tried them have found, is finding good and responsible partners.
  • eCommerce – Amazon has determined that it will sell its e-commerce arm based in China to a domestic rival, marking an end to a long struggle to make things work out in the Chinese market.  The company entered the eCommerce arena in China in the early 2000s but has found that fierce competition from China’s fast-moving internet titans have made continuing to operate successfully in China unlikely.
  • Low-cost Robots – Walmart is expanding the use of robots in stores to help monitor inventory, clean floors and unload trucks in an effort to help control labor costs as it spends more to raise wages and spend more on on-line grocery delivery.  The company reports that the use of a single machine can cut a few hours a day from work that humans have been doing, allowing it to allocate fewer people to complete a task.

 

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