Opinion Blog: Why go to Walmart when it can come to you?

May 20, 2011 by · Comments Off 

Posted by Mackenzie O’Hara
mohara@smu.edu

Everything seems to be available online these days, and mega-retailer Walmart is adding to the madness by allowing shoppers to purchase groceries via the World Wide Web.

The trial launched in California known as “Walmart To Go”, not only allows people to shop for their groceries online, but get them delivered to their house for a measly five dollar fee.

Walmart is known for its “everyday low prices” in all departments ranging from groceries to video games. Although this program gives consumers a great deal of convenience, allowing people to shop online might affect sales on items other than groceries.

According to Douglas McIntyre from DailyFinance, customers who go into the store for food are likely to peruse the aisles and buy a pair of shoes or use its pharmacy. Walmart may pick up a few new customers with its home-delivered groceries, he said, but risks losing its way of enticing people into buying things other than groceries.

However, the bigger question at hand is: When did going to the grocery store become too strenuous of an activity for people that they have to do it online?

The recent swell in online shopping is perplexing. While the convenience aspect of downloading a movie from home using Netflix is understandable, are Americans are too lazy to take a trip to the grocery store. And, how much is too much when it comes to being able to access goods online?

While Walmart isn’t the first online grocery site (Amazon, Peapod and Safeway already offer similar services) it should stick to selling groceries from an actual store.

A little social interaction in the market place is good for people. If people are continually given the ability to buy everything they want from behind a screen, there will no longer be a need for this form of contact.

Unfortunately the process of physically going to the store is being replaced by a few clicks of the mouse. This increase in technological dependence is something department stores, especially Walmart, should steer clear of.

If they don’t, the traditional act of shopping will be replaced with online browsing; and people will only need their computer to survive.

Personal Finance: When Daddy’s Credit Card Expires

November 8, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Liz Collinsworth
lcollinswo@smu.edu

There comes a day when the bird has to leave the nest and is forced to fend for itself. So what happens when students are cut off and parental funding reaches an end? How can students graduating from college learn to manage their own funds and begin to plan for the future at a young age? There is no textbook for life and no syllabus to guide fresh graduates step-by-step through life after college. Luckily, there are experts, tools and tricks to aid in post-graduation financial decisions.

Money management can sound intimidating, but can be tackled with the right plan in play. Post-college life can unveil hidden expenses and bills that many students don’t even realize exist. A basic understanding of costs such as insurance, rent and utilities, car payments and taxes is crucial to developing a financial plan.

Amanda Klassen, an 18-year-old student at Collin College says that while she is aware of taxes, she is unfamiliar with how they work.

“Right now my employer takes taxes out of my paycheck and my parents file them for me,” Klassen said. “I admit that I am completely clueless as to how the whole process takes place.”

(GRAPHIC COURTESY LIZ COLLINSWORTH)

Developing familiarity with finances early on is crucial to managing money

The key to financial success in the future is to develop and maintain a plan, and it is never too early to begin saving, says B.J. Collinsworth, chief financial officer of The Pinnacle Fund and an experienced certified public accountant.

“Start thinking about retirement the day you start working,” Collinsworth said. “Put together a financial plan and stick to it. Live within your means and start saving something beginning with your very first paycheck.”

While it may sound ridiculous to begin thinking about retirement upon graduation from college, Social Security and Medicare are reaching their expiration date.

According to an article on Youngmoney.com, an online portal to aid young adults in money management skills, Social Security will “be entirely depleted by 2037.” Yet young adults are still not saving. Some 40 percent of all young adults don’t have a savings account and 55 percent are not partaking in retirement savings such as 401(k) accounts, the article says.

Freedom is a potent responsibility that can bear evil upon those who abuse its sweet power. Students graduating from college and stepping foot into the real world for the first time are often compelled to spend the money that they never had and tend to neglect saving in the rush of financial freedom and salaries. While it may be exhilarating to be set free into the business world, blind spending is potentially threatening to monetary stability.

This generation is fortunate to live in a technology era when smartphone applications and computer programs can help manage money. Apps such as DebtTracker Pro and Flixoft’s Grocery Gadget, as noted on youngmoney.com, are examples of personal finance tools that allow users to hold a financial planner in the palm of their hand. Various technological apps and programs can help young adults keep track of payments and bills, bank balances and transactions, and even calculate progress toward getting out of debt. Smartphone users can now “hire” their own financial planner to teach them how to manage finances without paying someone the big bucks to do it for them.

“My iPhone is officially my business partner,” said Stephen Terry, a 22-year-old Collin College student. “I can find any information I need, check my online bank account and even track my stocks.”

Technology has even transformed what may have been your grandmother’s favorite pastime, coupon-clipping. Shopper’s cards, frequent buyers cards and coupons are easy ways to cut back on expenses. Conveniently, a majority of these things are now available electronically on smartphones to better cope with today’s technology.

The New York Times recently reported on the soon-to-be “InControl” MasterCard from Citigroup that declines charges when users disregard their monthly budget. If a credit card is in your future, youngmoney.com enforces the importance of always paying, at least the minimum payment each month to avoid getting into debt. This will enable users to establish good credit.

Part of the reason graduates are falling into debt at an early age is due to financial illiteracy. According to networksfinancialinstitue.org, only 26 percent of parents with children the age of five or older feel qualified to educate their children financially.

The year 2004 turned out more individual bankruptcy filings than college graduates. Network Financial Institute says that adults between the ages of 20 and 24 “represent the fastest growing segment of bankruptcy filings.”

Advice For College Students

Let’s admit it…yes it’s great to have that gym membership and Netflix is convenient entertainment, but there are cheap alternatives. Hulu.com allows viewers to watch missed TV episodes and even select movies online for free, and running outside is just as effective as running indoors on the treadmill. Furthermore, free Internet is available via Wi-Fi at various locations, and while coffee at home may not be served in a cute little cup, it’s cheaper and requires no transportation. Try to limit eating out and impulse purchases to increase potential savings. Limiting excess, materialistic spending is an easy way to save.

If you feel uneducated and inadequate to fend for yourself, outsource. College finance expert J.L. Thompson discusses tips from his book, “My College Finance.” Youngmoney.com offers an entire library of online calculators and tools to help young adults manage their finances. Research financial advice online and utilize the tools that you have in your cell phones, public libraries and online.

The Daily Update: Thursday, Sept. 23

September 23, 2010 by · Comments Off 

The Daily Update: Thursday, Sept. 23 from SMUDailyMustang.com on Vimeo.

Check out today’s Daily Update to find out what video rental company has announced bankruptcy and how your morning coffee might start to cost you more. Also, listen up for who will replace Simon on American Idol. All on your Daily Update.

Blockbuster Closing its Doors?

April 26, 2010 by · Comments Off 

Anthony Sowe
asowe@smu.edu

Blockbuster has definitely seen better days. And now, thanks to a competitive entertainment market and the economy making a slow comeback, Blockbuster has to face the possibility of bankruptcy.

In March, Blockbuster’s shareholders were sent into panic after the company issued a press release saying that it might file for bankruptcy. But how did Blockbuster, once an entertainment powerhouse, get in this situation?

The competitive market is taking its toll. Companies like Netflix, Redbox, and Gamefly.com offer consumers lower prices, and easier ways to get movies and games. As a result Blockbuster is exploring the use of rental kiosks to try and up sales. It is also following Netflix’s idea of offering movies online, and delivering them by mail.

But Blockbuster’s efforts to regain its customers may be too late. Blockbuster reported it lost $435 million in its last fiscal quarter. They also face $1 billion debt.

As of April 19, Blockbuster closed the day with its stock trading for only $0.56. For the 52 week range, Blockbuster has traded as low as $0.24 and as high as $1.56.

So should Blockbuster’s shareholders sell or buy? With the threat of bankruptcy, and the low stock price, some believe Blockbuster still has a ray of hope.

“It’s not past the point of no return,” says Thomas Fomby. “It is just going to have a very difficult time in regaining its dominant position of the past.”

Fomby, an SMU economics professor, and former consultant to Blockbuster, believes “Blockbuster has a brand name that will keep it afloat, but it will be a weaker company than Netflix,” he says.

He feels Netflix, along with Redbox, and Gamefly.com are more innovative competitors. “[Blockbuster] will be a second tier competitor for at least the next few years,” he says. Fomby thinks that in order for Blockbuster to remain it will have to imitate Netflix’s every move, as well as come up with its own innovative ideas.

While Fomby feels that Blockbuster will make it out of the slump they are in, others think Blockbuster considering bankruptcy is not good for its shareholders.

“The stock of a company nearing bankruptcy is a very risky investment,” says Gregory Crespi, an SMU law professor. “If the company goes bankrupt usually the common stock becomes worthless.”

Dealing with bankruptcy is tricky says Crespi. “If you buy stocks now, and the company avoids bankruptcy, its shareholders could win big.” Trading in stocks of a company near bankruptcy is not easy. “It’s not for the faint of heart,” he says. “It’s a real gamble.”

Japanese Film Festival Brings Cultures Together

March 22, 2010 by · Comments Off 

By Courtney O’Callaghan
cocallagha@smu.edu

Saturday evening SMU students and Dallas residents were brought together for the second night of a seven-year foreign event. The annual SMU Japanese Film Festival, running this past weekend and next features contemporary Japanese films, this year with a special focus on entertainment value.

Film festival committee member and SMU sophomore Jerra Hynes said every year the members of the SMU Japan club suggest and vote on the films and every year a different theme is emphasized to demonstrate to American viewers that there is more to foreign films than a cultural experience. The entertainment value of this year’s films shows that Japanese films can be as “fun, bold, and cutting-edge as American films,” Hynes said.

Kerri Connelly, a Dallas resident, said this was her second night and second year attending. “I enjoy coming not only because of my strong interest in Asian culture. I get a different perspective of the use of film through a different genre,” Connelly said.

Although some Japanese films can now be found on movie distribution sites like Netflix, she said the festival sometimes shows films that are unavailable to the public, such as last year’s showing of “Swing Girls.” Connelly was one of about 40 patrons to attend the festival that night, a low number compared to last night’s 100 viewers.

Last year the festival attracted 30 to 140 patrons per night according to Hynes. “The festival is growing every year and we hope it continues this year,” Hynes said.

This past weekend’s films included “Kamikaze Girls,” a 2006 Tetsuya Nakashima film that tracks the adventures of two girls who become friends over a common interest of all-girl motorbike gangs. Also shown was “Crows Zero,” a 2007 Takashi Miike film that follows the lives of high school gangs who all have the same goal: to rule and unite their school.

Next weekend “The Machine Girl,” a 2007 Noboru Iguchi film that follows a girl who replaces her hand with a machine gun, seeking revenge for her family’s death will be shown Friday. “Sukiyaki Western Django,” another 2007 Takashi Miike film, is a drama, action, comedy with a wild-west motif starring Quentin Tarantino, whihc will be shown on Saturday.

In reference to Quentin Tarantino’s involvement in the making of next Saturday’s film, Hynes said “these films give you an idea of a very foreign culture through humor and technique, but are also a great tool to find a connection that is film-making between Eastern and Western cultures.”

The annual festival is sponsored not only by SMU’s Japan Club, but a list of supporters such as the Japan-America Society of Dallas/Fort Worth, the Tower Center for Political Science at SMU and the SMU Department of Foreign Language and Literature. They have all contributed to a festival that promotes language practice and builds a connection between the Dallas community and the SMU campus, committee members said.

All films will continue to be shown next Friday and Saturday, March 26 and 27, at 6:30 p.m. in McCord Auditorium on the 3rd floor of SMU’s Dallas Hall. The films are in Japanese with English subtitles and admission is free.

Blockbuster Loss Grows as Sales Drop in Third Quarter

December 9, 2009 by · Comments Off 

Marissa Belske
msbelske@smu.edu

Dallas-based Blockbuster Inc. released its third-quarter results on Nov. 12, showing a widened net loss and continued attempts to cut back on costs. The largest US movie rental company reported that revenue declined 21 percent to $910.5 million from $1.16 billion a year ago.

Blockbuster reported a net loss of $116.8 million, or 60 cents a share, in the third quarter ending on Oct. 4, compared with a net loss of $20.6 million, or 11 cents a share a year ago. Excluding one, time losses, the company lost 20 cents a share.

“These things are going to take awhile. These things are basically on trial purposes,” Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Jim Keyes said on a webcast to investors.

“Give us time. Sorry I can’t give you much color.”

The lackluster results come after Blockbuster had spent most of the year trying to stimulate growth by cutting back on costs, closing stores, opening new kiosks, and expanding its online features. Keyes says that Blockbuster plans on making a small bump in advertising in the fourth quarter, putting more focus on in-store and mail customers.

“With the capital structure improvements behind us we are returning our focus to the operations of the business,” Keyes said in a press release about the third-quarter results.

“In the fourth quarter we are adding inventory, expanding product assortment, increasing advertising and reaching out to our customers in new and exciting ways.”

Blockbuster has already made some major changes in the past year. It announced a mobile integration deal with Motorola, rolled out Blockbuster On Demand to a wide assortment of Samsung and TiVo devices and completed an offering of $675 million in senior secured notes.

“With the addition of Blockbuster Express branded vending kiosks and the mass market deployment of Blockbuster On Demand on internet connected devices to millions of homes across the U.S., we have dramatically increased our points of presence and made it more convenient for our customers to access the latest movies and games the way they want,” Keyes said.

Third quarter 2009 domestic same-store sales decreased 18.3 percent, following decreases in rental and retail sales of 14.5 percent and 35.6 percent. Blockbuster plans to close 115 locations in the fourth quarter in addition to the 216 that have already been closed through the third quarter of 2009. It is on track to close as many as 960 unprofitable stores by the end of 2010 and install 10,000 kiosks in their place.

Many of Blockbuster’s failures have been blamed on the continually growing area of rental kiosks and online rentals with competitors like Redbox kiosks and the online renter Netflix Inc.

In the webcast, Keyes said that major revenue from new investments, such as the 2,500 rental kiosks that will be in place at the end of this year, would not show up just yet.

Next quarter Blockbuster pledges to spend more on advertising to reach new consumers, increase sales inside stores, and continue the new ventures of kiosks and Blockbuster On Demand.