Just about a month ago at its investor meeting, MCD downplayed the media noise around going national in the U.S. with the Dollar Menu at breakfast, saying that it has been used at breakfast in some markets for some time and is, therefore, nothing new.  Specifically, management stated that in the markets where a Dollar Menu was already offered that the results were directionally consistent with Dollar Menu performance during other dayparts.


Today, it is being reported that MCD will launch a national dollar menu in January, supported by advertising across the U.S. I think this national launch was anticipated by investors, which is why there was so much “noise” around the topic prior to MCD’s November meeting.  If management knew in November that it was going to launch the Dollar Menu at breakfast in January, I find it interesting that management tried so hard to downplay the news, saying it was not new.  It may not be new to some markets, but it is new to the balance of the system in the U.S. 


Don Thompson, president of McDonald’s USA, did say during his presentation at the November meeting that we will learn more about core breakfast initiatives in 2010.  Is this national launch of the Dollar Menu part of the breakfast initiatives?  If so, it is new news.  I think MCD would only introduce the Dollar Menu at breakfast if there was a definite need to do so.  Breakfast is MCD’s most profitable daypart and management would only risk decreasing its margins at breakfast if traffic was under real pressure. 


I think management knew such an introduction would be viewed as a sign of increased weakness in same-store sales trends and would possibly dominate much of the Q&A and coverage of the meeting with investors harping on the issue as to why such an introduction is necessary.


The announcement today, however, is less alarming because the investor community has already had the last couple of months to mull over the possibility of a Dollar Menu at breakfast.  And, we already know that comparable sales trends are weak in the U.S. following two months of reported declines.


If management had not come to a decision over whether to nationally launch the Dollar Menu prior to its investor meeting, then traffic trends at breakfast must have deteriorated rather significantly in the past month, making such a move necessary.  Either way, we know comparable sales trends in the U.S. are under pressure and the Dollar Menu at breakfast will put increased pressure on margins.  I would also think that today’s announcement was not a welcomed one by the entire franchisee community because not all incremental traffic counts are created equal from a margin standpoint.  I view this national launch as a desperate move by MCD and a clear indication of the slowdown in business trends.



She should be a decent new market for the slot manufacturers.  VLT shipments to Italy could commence as early as 2H2010 and could be a nice boost for BYI, IGT, and WMS.



In an effort to raise earthquake relief funds, the Italian government recently passed legislation allowing for the conversion of 14% of the existing AWP machines in the country to be converted to Comma 6B machines, otherwise known as Video Lottery Terminals (VLTs).  Like the AWP games, VLTs will also be operated through a central server.  This presents a market opportunity of roughly 57,000 new machines if all the licenses are purchased.  The cost of each VLT license is 15,000 Euros, equivalent to an aggregate of 850MM Euros of tax proceeds to the Italian government. 


There are ten concessionaires that have the right to bid on the Comma 6B licenses and each concessionaire can only bid 14% of their existing AWP install base.  In their initial indication, all the licenses were spoken for and all 10 concessionaires made the initial 50% deposit in Oct 2009.  They have until March 2010 to confirm the final number of licenses that they want, with the remaining 50% payment due by June 14, 2010.  It’s likely that the final amount of the licenses purchased will end up between the 28,500 that has already been paid for and the full 57,000 amount that is approved. 


The two main issues that will determine the final scope of the market are:

  • Quality of the locations that each concessionaire has
  • Regulation of the secondary market; meaning what happens to the licenses that aren’t bid for, which won’t be decided until March 2010


Once the suppliers are compliant with Italian regulations for VLT operations and the final payment is made, then the concessionaires can start operating the machines.  We see the time line as follows:  1) the testing and approval process with be completed in March, 2) shipping will likely start in 2H2010 and 3) most of the units will be operational by 1Q2011. 


Lottomatica will use its own Speilo machines for its licenses and has an agreement to sell up to 2,000 machines to Gamenet.  Other market players will include:  IGT, WMS, BYI, and Novamatica. 


IGT has a relationship with Atlantis; they will likely announce some sort of agreement over the next few weeks but we suspect IGT will form other distribution partnerships.  BYI has a relationship with many of the players and has provided machines to Cogetch, HBG, and Atlantic, to name only few.  WMS is in discussion with half of the concession holders. VLTs will likely be priced in the $12-13,000 range.


Listed below are the details on the 10 Concessionaires:

  • Atlantis World is the largest with rights to 12,000 VLTs
  • Lottomatica has rights to 10,800 licenses (Spielo)
  • Gamenet has rights to 8,000 licenses
  • Cogetech 
  • SNAI
  • Cisal
  • HBG
  • Cirsa
  • Codere
  • Gmatica


So what are the economics to the equipment suppliers?  Assuming that 75% of the potential 57,000 licenses get purchased in the primary market (meaning that not all the licenses get bought in round one) leaves a market of 43k units.  Taking out Lottomatica’s share, since they will use Spielo, that leaves 33k for the four likely players:  IGT, BYI, WMS and Novamatica.  Assuming equal share – not likely but is the best guess – then that’s 8,250 units per supplier, likely recognized in 4Q2010 or 1Q2011.  Assuming $12.5k pricing and a 40% margin (since the games are Italy-specific and lower priced) = $5k of gross profit per unit or $5MM per 1,000 units.  Here is the impact by company:


  • BYI:  $0.06 in EPS for every 1,000 units sold; 8,250 units = $0.46
  • WMS:  $0.05 for every 1,000; 8,250 units = $0.43
  • IGT:  $0.01 for every 1,000; 8,250 units = $0.08


THE ITALIAN BIRD - suppliers italy 1

The Haka

“This is the hairy man, who caused the sun to shine again for me.”

 -Haka of the All Blacks


Position: We currently have no position in New Zealand


My colleague and former Yale Tennis star, Rory Green, introduced me to the Haka.  The Haka is a traditional New Zealand dance performed by the Maori, who performed this dance prior to going into war (and also on some other occasions).  The dance is performed by a group that is usually comprised of men and includes vigorous movements, feet stamping, and chanting.  The Haka has also been popularized by the New Zealand Rugby team, the All Blacks, as a way to intimidate their opponents before  a game.  They first performed the Haka in 1884 on their first trip abroad, and have been performing before the start of rugby matches ever since.


For you sports fans, give it a look here at the link below.  It’s pretty cool.


As I was reviewing the global macro news flow from Asia this morning, I was reminded of the Haka after reading comments from Governor Alan Bollard of the Reserve Bank of New Zealand.  He very rationally stated:


“If the economy continues to recover, conditions may support beginning to remove monetary stimulus around the middle of 2010.”


This was an about face from the prior statement in which Governor Bollard indicated rates would stay low into the back half of 2010.  Not surprisingly, the New Zealand currency jumped almost 1.5% on the move.   Bollard pointed to a rebound in global activity, in particular Australia, China and emerging Asia as helping support the domestic New Zealand economy.


Much like the All Blacks do before taking on an opponent somewhere around the globe, Governor Bollard is doing the interest rate Haka.  With unemployment having peaked in New Zealand and house price inflation expected to hit double digits by March, Bollard is making a proactive risk management move to protect against “the hairy man” known as inflation.  The global currency scoreboard is awarding Bollard’s Haka today.


What say you He Who Sees No Bubbles (Bernanke)? Will the New Zealand Interest Rate Haka be answered?


Daryl G. Jones
Managing Director


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For the week ending December 5th, Initial jobless claims rose to 474,000, an increase of 17,000 from last week figure of 457,000.  The 4-week moving average was 473,750, a decrease of 7,750 from the previous week's revised average of 481,250. This is the lowest level since October 2008.


The good news is that the number for seasonally adjusted insured unemployment during the week ending Nov. 28 was 5,157,000, a decrease of 303,000 from the preceding week's revised level of 5,460,000.  While the trend may be friendly, the level of the 4-week average is suggesting continued job losses.


This is consistent with the EMPLOYMENT post of 12/08/09 - the numbers reported by the labor department just don’t add up. 


For the USA to see a sustainable drop in the unemployment rate, we need Initial jobless claims to drop below 390,000.  This week’s Initial claims number shoots back above the 4-wk moving average, and puts everything NASTY (to be confirmed by a NASTY confidence reading on Friday and declining presidential ratings) in play. 


Including US Dollar down!


Howard Penney

Managing Director




In an interview with the LV Sun, CEO Murren pitched CityCenter as an attractive property for LV locals. The reader comment section shed some light on the viability of that assertion.



MGM’s CEO gave an interview with Jon Ralston from the Las Vegas Sun this week to discuss the opening of the $8.5 billion project CityCenter on the Las Vegas Strip.  The project is opening in one of the worst economies Vegas has ever seen.  Predictably, Murren is expanding his duration from a “return on investment perspective” to “over a five-or-ten-year period of time”.  I'm sure the ROI analysis will include cannibalization. 


Jim Murren believes that the art and architecture at CityCenter will “inspire” people to the degree that local Las Vegas residents will come to CityCenter.  He contends that locals, himself included, will warm to a property that creates some semblance of a downtown urban environment that Vegas previously lacked.  Murren dispelled the notion that another casino, hotel, mall, or arena is what Las Vegas needs, “but”, he said, “what we could use, what we do need is something to inspire people.  I think the architecture will.  I think the public spaces will”.  MGM has an uphill battle.  Traditionally, locals have preferred the Boulder Strip, North Las Vegas, Summerlin, and Henderson casinos to the more expensive and tourist-orientated, congested Strip.  


The Las Vegas Sun’s online version of this piece, entitled, “Locals will visit Strip to go to CityCenter”, was met with almost universal dissidence from readers via the discussion section below the article.  Most of these responders are undoubtedly Las Vegas area residents so their opinions should not be discounted.  Indeed, they are very telling.  Some of the more notable reader reactions include:


“Umm... inspire them to do what exactly? Spend more money?”


“LOL. And how do you make money from people wandering around enjoying the environment? Last I checked you make a lot more money from the guy sitting in front of the slot machine than the guy sitting on the park bench admiring an obscure piece of art.”


“Honestly, if City Center wants to attract locals, then let us know when Crystals has a Wal-Mart and a Dollar Loan Center on site.”


“Who wants to fight the traffic then park in a garage that is 4 miles from the Casino and walk? Not me… Murren - you are totally out of touch!  All I see with City Center is a big impersonal Monster that I have no intention of entering.”

Retail First Look: Welcome Back Tourists?


December 10, 2009





For the first time in over a year, commentary suggests tourists are taking advantage of the weak dollar and beginning to return to the U.S. shores. Anecdotally, one only needs to spend a few minutes near the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree to observe this phenomenon.


  • For the first time in over a year, Neiman Marcus noted that it is seeing a pick-up in its Bergdorf Good man business. Management attributes the improvement to a return of their core customer (as measured by sales associates reuniting with their clients) and the increase in tourism driven by the weak dollar. This marks the first mention of a positive callout for NYC luxury commerce and is likely encouraging for others including TIF, SKS, and COH.
  • When pressed for insights into current product trends, Neiman’s CEO responded with, “Want to know some hot trends, buy some over-the-knee boots, buy some Uggs, any kind of Ugg.” Other positive callouts included women’s flats and cashmere sweaters. Management also suggested that inventory is light in both women’s shoes and women’s contemporary due to better than expected demand for both departments.
  • Bakers Footwear Group indicated that after a warmer November, sales have picked up in early December. Key to driving both the volatility and recent improvement is the company’s reliance on the boot category. With 60% of the company’s product mix focused on boots in 4Q, management is optimistic that positive trends will continue now that the weather has returned to more normal conditions. Bakers boot penetration is among the highest in the footwear sector…




Penney's Promotes Executives - J.C. Penney Co. Inc. promoted Jeffrey J. Allison, Steven Lawrence and Elizabeth H. Sweney to senior general merchandise managers. They were general merchandise managers and all continue to hold the title of executive vice president. Under the new structure, which was revealed late Wednesday, Sweney will lead shoes and women’s accessories in addition to women’s apparel. Allison will lead home, custom decorating and now fine jewelry. Lawrence will oversee children’s in addition to the men’s division. Penney’s said the changes take advantage of the depth of talent within the company, and position Penney’s to grow.Officials could not be reached for comment on whether the promotions are related to succession planning or to help fill the void left by the departure of Ken Hicks, the former president and chief merchandising officer who left in June to become ceo of Foot Locker Inc. The company did say it has discontinued its search for a new president.Myron E. “Mike” Ullman 3rd continues to lead all executive areas as chairman and chief executive officer.  <>


UIL partners with Nike for equipment discounts - The University Interscholastic League announced on Wednesday a partnership with Nike that will make the sports apparel and equipment giant the outfitter of choice for Texas high schools. The partnership is a first between the Oregon-based company and a statewide high school organization. "We are extremely pleased to partner with Nike and to bring greater innovation and resources to the schools of Texas," UIL executive director Charles Breithaupt said in a statement. "This partnership is a reflection of the desire of the UIL to bring new opportunities to students statewide." As part of the agreement, Nike will provide discounted rates to the roughly 1,300 UIL-member schools. Nike also will be an official sponsor at both UIL athletic and non-athletic events. <>


Under Armour Opens NYC Pop-Up Store - Under Armour opened its first pop-up store in New York City. The 3,300 square foot store, at 3 West 57th Street, displays several of the uniforms for the U.S. team members competing in the Vancouver 2010 Olympics. These include the USA Freestyle Ski team and USA Bobsled team, which are sponsored by Under Armour. The store also features a full line of hottest Under Armour athletic apparel, footwear and accessories. The company has four full retail stores in Washington, D.C., Annapolis, as well as 35 factory outlets throughout the country. <> bags the best November site availability rating - posted the best rating in the Gomez Inc. high broadband availability tests for November. Web shoppers could access the mass merchandise retailer’s site 96.90% of the time last month. The average availability for the top retailers in November was 89.99% for high broadband, 79.21% for low broadband and 46.94% for dial-up, Gomez says. Rounding out the top five e-retailers for high broadband availability were (96.84%), (96.81%), (96.62%) and (96.52%). had the most consistent low broadband availability at 92.49%, and had the most consistent dial-up availability at 85.61%. <>


Nautilus Sells Portion of Commercial Assets - Nautilus, Inc. has entered into definitive agreements for the sale of certain assets of its commercial business to Fit Dragon International Ltd. for $12.3 million. The agreements provide for the sale of certain assets of StairMaster and Schwinn Fitness, including the licensing of indoor cycling products of the Schwinn Fitness brand for use in the commercial channel. The company retains certain rights to the Schwinn brand and will continue to market Schwinn fitness products in the consumer channel, including both retail and direct to consumer. The transactions are subject to customary conditions to closing and are scheduled to close on or before December 30, 2009. <>


In Brief: Tiffany Taps Japan President - Stéphane Lafay has been named president of Tiffany & Co. Japan Inc. Lafay succeeds Michael Christ, who will retire in January. Lafay had been president of Bulgari in Japan since 2003. He has also had stints at Puig Group and Saint-Gobain Group. James E. Quinn, president of Tiffany & Co., said Lafay’s experience in luxury jewelry retailing is well-suited to lead the firm in Japan. He credited Christ with strengthening Tiffany’s distribution base in Japan and developing programs to build loyal customer relationships. <>


True Religion Goes Sexy for Spring -True Religion Apparel Inc. is looking to up its glam quotient and showcase the label’s growing assortment of sportswear when it unveils its latest advertising campaign this spring. In a first for the Vernon, Calif.-based company, it has doubled up on the high-wattage-model front to feature both sexes. Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue regular Tori Praver and men’s fashion face Gabriel Aubry appear together in a black-and-white campaign shot by Nino Muñoz at Milk Studios in Los Angeles. Jeff Lubell, chairman and chief executive officer, believes the campaign will make a statement about the brand’s progression from a strictly hippie-inspired aesthetic to a more refined and upscale look. “It is a lot more glam, more glitz, but not moving away too far from our roots,” said Lubell. <>


Coalision Eyes European Expansion - PARIS — Bernard Mariette, chief executive officer of Coalision Inc., the company that owns apparel and outerwear brands Orage and Lolë, has Europe in his sight. His plan, after taking the helm of the Montreal-based company in August, is to raise the profile of Lolë, the youngest brand in the Coalision stable, in Europe. But Coalision isn’t in a rush to do so, aiming to widen its European footprint next year, according to Mariette. “Lolë targets women aged 30 and older, who like to practice sport and take an interest in their well being, but want to do it with style,” Mariette told WWD. As such, he thinks women in large European cities as well as Scandinavian countries, who are keen on stylish sportswear they can wear in town as well as during outdoor activities, are likely to be receptive to Lolë’s appeal.  <>


A New Edun: Ali Hewson and Bono's Brand Expands - When Ali Hewson and her husband, Bono, founded socially conscious clothing brand Edun in 2005, they set out to create a business that would generate trade opportunities in developing regions, particularly Africa. Hewson is the first to admit that early on, the label’s mission sometimes overpowered the product itself. But with the backing of LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton, which took a 49 percent stake in the label this year, the couple is looking to correct that. “We were so keen on our mission that we made compromises that maybe we shouldn’t have made with respect to our customer and the fact that they should have great clothes,” said Hewson, sitting in the loft in New York’s TriBeCa district that serves as the company’s showroom. “Without great clothes, we don’t have a business, so it’s important to get that end right.”  <>


Modern Amusement CEO Exits in Restructuring - California-based sportswear brand Modern Amusement is undergoing a restructuring that includes the departure of its chief executive officer, the elimination of most of its staff and a likely change to its master licensing agreement, WWD has learned. Michael Boyes, who inked a five-year master license for Modern Amusement in December 2008 with brand owner Mossimo Giannulli, left the company last month. Boyes was the ceo and founder of Blk Brd LLC, a company he set up last year specifically to operate the Modern Amusement business. Boyes did not return e-mails seeking comment and Modern Amusement declined to clarify the status of the license agreement. <>


Biotech Firm Genencor Adds New Denim Product - Biotechnology firm Genencor has added another item to its suite of PrimaGreen eco-friendly denim processing products. The PrimaGreen range of products relies on using naturally occurring enzymes rather than traditional bleaches to achieve faded, washed and worn looks in denim. The latest product, dubbed PrimaGreen EcoLight 1, is a liquid biodegradable enzyme that can be used in the laundering process to attain a vintage look in denim. When used with other PrimaGreen products that allow for low-temperature denim fading and abrasion, the company believes water and energy usage can be cut by 40 to 70 percent. The process of washing, bleaching and dyeing garments often requires a lot of water at high temperatures, meaning more energy usage. However, van Schoot said he’s seen brands and retailers over the past several years take more of an interest in how their goods are made. <>


House Passes Tax Relief Bill - The House passed a broad tax relief bill Wednesday that would renew a provision that shortens the time it takes retailers to write off the cost of remodeling stores. The overall legislation, which the House passed 241 to 181, would extend $31 billion in tax breaks for businesses and individuals and renews almost 50 current tax laws that are set to expire after Dec. 31. It is unclear whether the Senate will consider the bill this year due to the debate over health care, which has pushed many legislative issues aside. Retailers are highly supportive of a provision in the House bill that provides for a one-year extension for certain leasehold improvements and sets a 15-year period for depreciation of remodeling retail stores that are owned or leased. “In the current economic climate, some retailers look at remodeling as a way to revitalize a failing store, but the anticipated return has to pay for the costs involved,” said Steve Pfister, senior vice president for government relations at the National Retail Federation.  <>


UK: Retailers Breath Sign Of Relief As Chancellor Rules Out VAT Increase - Retailers breathed a sigh of relief yesterday after the Chancellor confirmed that the rate of VAT would return to 17.5% on 1 January but made it clear he had no plans for any further increase. Many high street stores had feared an increase in VAT to 20%, or the extension of the tax to food, as the Government seeks to plug a deficit expected to top £175bn this year. Stephen Robertson, the Director General of the British Retail Consortium said, "It's a relief that VAT won't increase beyond 17.5%. Consumer confidence is weakening. Big price increases would fuel inflation, make people less likely to spend and hold back recovery”. The BRC also welcomed the announcement that retailers will be given four weeks instead of two to update price labels in stores after the VAT rate changes on 1 January. <>


Online holiday shoppers grow more conservative in their spending - With their Thanksgiving weekend shopping spree behind them, online shoppers spent more conservatively on their holiday gift lists last week, says comScore Inc. For the first 36 days of the holiday shopping season–Nov. 1 through Dec. 6–comScore estimates that spending increased year over year 3.3% to $15.977 billion from $15.473 billion. That suggests shoppers grew more careful about their purchases after increasing their spending year over year by 11% to an estimated $595 million on the Friday after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday, and 5% to an estimated $887 million on the Monday after Thanksgiving, often referred to as Cyber Monday. <>


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