As shoppers mobilize on Thanksgiving, retailers branch out

NEW YORK — Shoppers are hitting the stores on Thanksgiving and will be finding some surprises: toys and TVs at J.C. Penney, Barbies at Best Buy, kitchen appliances like wine refrigerators at B.J.’s.

As the holiday shopping season officially kicked off Thursday, retailers are counting on a lift from a better economy. But they’re also looking beyond economic data and mapping out ways to pick up sales from other retailers as Amazon expands its reach.

That can mean opening earlier than rivals on the holidays or even jumping into new product categories. The fight for market share comes as analysts at Bain say Amazon is expected to take half of the holiday season’s sales growth. And Amazon is the top destination for people to begin holiday shopping, according to a September study by market research firm NPD Group.

“The retailers are in survival mode. It’s about stealing each other’s market share,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at NPD. “Amazon is the Grinch. They’re stealing the growth.”

With the jobless rate at a 17-year-low of 4.1 percent and consumer confidence stronger than a year ago, analysts project healthy sales increases for November and December. The National Retail Federation trade group expects sales for that period to at least match last year’s rise of 3.6 percent and estimates online spending and other non-store sales will rise 11 to 15 percent.

Amazon is expected to be a big beneficiary as it cements loyalty among its Prime members and moves into new services and private-label merchandise. The company has introduced more than 20 such brands in the past two years in clothing, electronics, groceries and more, says Bain.

That leaves stores looking at rivals to see where they can pick up sales. There are extra dollars up for grabs this year, after thousands of store locations have closed and several retailers including Gymboree and Toys R Us filed for bankruptcy protection.

Greg Foran, CEO of Walmart’s U.S. division, said that the retail giant’s holiday shopping season appeared to be off to a good start. It got things going in the first minutes of Thursday with an online sales event that featured a range of deals from toys to TVs to slow cookers and Google Home mini gadgets.

“We are in good shape,” Foran told The Associated Press. “We have a bit of momentum and we had a good kickoff online, and with a bit of luck we are going to have …read more

Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News

Zimbabwe asks if new leader, a Mugabe ally, can bring change

JOHANNESBURG — Zimbabwe’s incoming leader Emmerson Mnangagwa, widely known as the Crocodile, is seen as a smart, ruthless politician, and many question if he will be able to bring the change the country craves.

“We are witnessing the beginning of a new, unfolding democracy,” the 75-year-old announced Wednesday upon his return to the country, two weeks after his firing by longtime mentor Robert Mugabe led to the president’s downfall.

Despite the message of inclusion, Zimbabweans noted that Mnangagwa made his first public remarks outside ruling ZANU-PF party headquarters and, switching to the local Shona language, praised the party.

They ask whether Mnangagwa will be adequately independent from ZANU-PF to revive the battered economy and restore democracy with the backing of the opposition and others.

The ruling party has proven it protects its own. It assured Mugabe he would not be prosecuted if he stepped down, ZANU-PF chief whip Lovemore Matuke told The Associated Press: “He is safe, his family is safe and his status as a hero of his country is assured.”

On Thursday, the opposition MDC-T party said it had not been invited to Mnangagwa’s inauguration Friday morning at a 60,000-seat stadium. That’s after the MDC joined the efforts to remove Mugabe, seconding the motion in Parliament to impeach him.

Mnangagwa’s remarkable rise to power — from being sacked as vice president and fleeing the country to being named Zimbabwe’s next leader — was largely thanks to the military, which put Mugabe under house arrest, and ruling party lawmakers who introduced the impeachment proceedings.

It is widely expected that Mnangagwa will continue to rely on them.

“Can a crocodile change its scales? Everybody is asking that question. Certainly his first speech was a lost opportunity. He did not speak about the need for an inclusive government,” said Piers Pigou, southern Africa expert for the International Crisis Group. “He has a long past with ZANU-PF and the military and that past may stick to him like chewing gum on a shoe.”

Pigou said more will be known when Mnangagwa announces his new government and policies. “It will be difficult for him to escape his history,” he said. “But the door is open.”

Mnangagwa served for decades as Mugabe’s enforcer and among Zimbabwe’s population, he is more feared than popular. He now urges the country to come together, to “bury our differences and rebuild a new and prosperous Zimbabwe, a country that is tolerant to divergent views.”

For weeks before the political …read more

Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News

Barton to go mum over disclosed photo, citing probe

WASHINGTON — Suggesting he’s a victim of revenge porn from a jilted lover, Republican Rep. Joe Barton of Texas says he plans to go silent about the release of a nude photo of him online because police are investigating the disclosure as a possible crime against him. Authorities have not confirmed an investigation.

The 68-year-old Barton, who joined the House in 1985, has acknowledged sharing intimate material with a lover and accused her of threatening to make it public when he ended the relationship. The unidentified woman told The Washington Post that she did not put it online and said the congressman sought to intimidate her by threatening to go to the authorities if she exposed his conduct.

The he said-she said dispute erupted in the midst of sexual misconduct allegations drawing in several other members of Congress as well as Senate Republican candidate Roy Moore of Alabama, who is accused of disrobing a 14-year-old girl. The consequences for Barton are not immediately apparent aside from his mortification: The relationship with the woman was evidently consensual.

The Post published details of a secretly recorded conversation between Barton and his lover from 2015 in which he threatened to “take all this crap to the Capitol Hill Police and have them launch an investigation” if she did not agree to keep “inappropriate photographs and video” that he had exchanged with her from becoming public. He said she had already shared material with other women with whom he had been involved.

In a statement after that report, Barton said the “Capitol Police reached out to me and offered to launch an investigation and I have accepted. Because of the pending investigation, we will have no further comment.” He said the women’s comments on the tape could be evidence of a “potential crime against me.”

Capitol Police have not said whether they have begun an investigation. A message left by The Associated Press at Barton’s district office in Arlington, Texas, was not returned. The voicemail for his office in Washington was full.

Making explicit images available without the subject’s permission is a felony in the District of Columbia and a Class A misdemeanor in Texas under revenge porn laws passed several years ago. More than 30 other states have such a law; there is no corresponding federal law.

These laws have historically protected women whose boyfriends or spouses publish or publicize nude or embarrassing photos sent to them privately while they …read more

Source:: Deseret News – U.S. & World News