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Inflation clouds Black Friday sales in US shopping season




US retailers unveiled a trove of fresh promotions on Friday, as they try to coax sales from reticent shoppers whose holiday cheer has been tempered by inflation and worries over a softening economy.

Cautious shoppers have hunted for the best deals at stores and online as retailers offered new Black Friday discounts to entice consumers eager to start buying holiday gifts but weighed down by inflation.

Due to elevated prices for food, rent, gasoline and other essentials, many people were more selective and reluctant to spend unless there was a big sale on Friday.

Some were dipping more into savings, turning to “buy now, pay later” services that allow payment in instalment, or running up their credit cards at a time when the Federal Reserve is hiking rates to cool the US economy.

This year’s trends are a contrast from a year ago when consumers were buying early for fear of not getting what they needed amid supply-network clogs.

Stores didn’t have to discount much because they were struggling to bring in items.

Online discount rates were 31 percent on Thanksgiving, up 7 percent from the previous year, according to Salesforce data.

Shoppers wait to enter the Nike store at the Opry Mills Mall in Nashville, Tennessee. (AFP)

High customer traffic

Macy’s Herald Square in Manhattan, where discounts included 60 percent off fashion jewelry and 50 percent off select shoes, was bustling with shoppers early on Friday.

The traffic was “significantly larger” on Black Friday compared to the previous two years because shoppers feel more comfortable in crowds, Macy’s CEO Jeff Gennette said.

Customer traffic was also higher than last year at Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, according to Jill Renslow, executive vice president of business development of the shopping centre.

She said 10,000 people were at the sprawling mall during the first hour after the 7 am opening, though inflation prompted many shoppers to figure out what to buy before showing up.

Major retailers, including Walmart and Target, stuck with their pandemic-era decision to close stores on Thanksgiving Day, moving away from doorbusters and pushing discounts on their websites.

Shoppers walk the aisles of Walmart for Black Friday deals in Dunwoody, Georgia. (AFP)

Spike in online sales

Rob Garf, vice president and general manager of retail at Salesforce, said Salesforce data showed online sales spiked in the evening during the holiday this year, suggesting people went from feasting to phone shopping.

Shoppers spent $5.3 billion online on Thanksgiving Day, up 2.9 percent from the holiday last year, according to Adobe Analytics, which monitors spending across websites. Adobe expects that online buying on Black Friday will hit $9 billion, up just 1 percent from a year ago.

Black Friday saw some of the labour unrest that has rippled through the retail industry over the past year.

A coalition of trade unions and advocacy organisations are coordinating strikes and walkouts at Amazon facilities in more than 30 countries under a campaign called “Make Amazon Pay.”

READ MORE: Amazon: Black Friday and Cyber Monday 2020 biggest online sales ever

Fears of mass shootings

At Walmart stores, some employees had Wednesday’s deadly shooting at a company store in Virginia in the back of their minds.

Jude Anani, a 35-year-old who works at a Walmart store in Columbia, Maryland, said the company offers training on how to react in such circumstances, but he would like to see more protection.

He was happy to see police officer standing outside the store, as is typical on Black Friday, and wished that was the case “most of the time during the year.”

Analysts consider the five-day Black Friday weekend, which includes Cyber Monday, a key barometer of shoppers’ willingness to spend.

The two-month period between Thanksgiving and Christmas represents about 20 percent of the retail industry’s annual sales.

Source: TRT

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Finance Minister: GDP would have been at MVR 140B if not for the pandemic





Finance Minister Ibrahim Ameer, on Wednesday, stated that Maldives’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP), if not for the COVID-19 pandemic, would have been at MVR 140 billion by the end of this year.

Speaking at a campaign rally of President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih held at Ameer’s birth island, GDh. Gadhdhoo last night, the minister said Maldives’ economy was improving at a high speed ahead of the pandemic.

He detailed that only USD 162 million was in the state’s usable reserve when the current administration took office in 2018, which was raised USD 316 million in just two years.

Nevertheless, Ameer stressed that the nation’s GDP dropped by 33 percent due to the pandemic, citing the Maldivian economy would have been at much better levels by the end of this year, if the pandemic had not taken place.

Ameer forecasted the following numbers with respect to the economy by the end of this term, if not for the pandemic.

GDP – MVR 140 billion
Usable reserve – USD 500 million
Tourist arrivals – Three million per year
Nevertheless, Ameer said the Maldivian economy was in a better condition compared to before, even with the difficulties faced due to the pandemic.

“Even with the pandemic, the usable reserve stood at approximately USD 177 million when we concluded 2020 amid the pandemic; an increase from the USD 162 million it stood at by the end of 2018,” he said.

The minister stressed that the government had incurred huge expenses during the pandemic to provide income support, frontline allowance and financial assistance to small and medium enterprises.

He added that the government undertook these tasks while faring through the biggest low the Maldives and the world’s economy have ever experienced.

Minister Ameer said the government, despite a multitude of difficulties, carried out a great number of infrastructure development projects – which would aid in doubling the economy in the next term.

Statistics show that Maldives’ usable reserve stood at USD 594 million at the end of last month. USD 238 million has been deducted from the reserve between last year’s December and July.

Maldives’ GDP improved by 13 percent last year, while so far this year, it has been at 9 percent.


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ECB rate hikes might knock 3.8 pct off euro area economy: analysis





Given that governments in eurozone have or will opt out of the supportive measures which were put into place in the face of the surging energy prices over a year ago, the regional economy can contract up to 5 percent in 2024, a Bloomberg analysis noted.

FRANKFURT, Aug. 7 (Xinhua) — Aggressive rate hikes by the European Central Bank (ECB) can inflict an adverse impact on the economy of the euro area, and will trim 3.8 percent off from its economic output in 2024, a Bloomberg analysis published on Monday said.

The analysis said that the combination of high interest rates and limited government capacity to stimulate development poses a potential constraint on the economic growth of the euro area.

Given that governments in the euro area have or will opt out of the supportive measures which were put into place in the face of the surging energy prices over a year ago, the euro area economy can contract up to 5 percent in 2024, the analysis noted.

The ECB has lifted key interest rates by a total of 425 basis points since last July in a bid to bring down inflation, which is hovering well above its target of 2 percent.

The central bank has refrained from pre-announcing another hike for its next rate-setting meeting, insisting that interest rates will remain its primary tool in the fight against inflation.

The ECB considered the euro area economy to be weak in the short run but said it would pick up momentum in the long run. The central bank will publish its latest edition of projections for inflation as well as economic growth in the euro area in September.

Source(s): Xinhua

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BML posts Q2 net profit of over MVR 550M





Bank of Maldives (BML) has posted a net profit after tax of over MVR 550 million for the second quarter of the year.

The national bank’s Q2 financial results, released on Monday, shows the bank generated a revenue of MVR 1.06 billion.

The bank generated an operating profit of MVR 678 million – up 15 percent compared to Q2 2022.

BML posted a net profit after tax of MVR 552 million – up 55 percent compared to last year.

The bank attributed the increase to solid performances across all core business lines.

Despite the higher profits, the bank noted that capital adequacy and liquidity ratios are significantly higher than regulatory requirements.

During Q2, BML introduced its digital banking assistant, “Aaya”, as part of its commitment to enhance customer experience; introduced Two Factor Authentication (2FA) for internet and mobile banking logins, and a self-service ‘Kill Switch’ to disable access to internet banking and cards in emergencies.

BML’s CEO and Managing Director Karl Stumke said he was pleased with the results.

“We are pleased with the positive first half results which gives us the financial platform to continue to invest in the communities we serve. We will work hard to continue the positive momentum throughout the rest of the year,” he said.

In May, BML partnered with American Express to launch the year-long destination campaign ‘Experience Maldives’ offering unique, authentic experiences for American Express Card members.

The bank also opened new Self-Service Banking ATM centers in Maafaru and Miladhoo.

Q2 also saw the bank hold its Annual General Meeting, during which shareholders approved a total dividend payout of MVR 215 million, with MVR 40 per share.

BML boats a nationwide network of 38 branches across all 20 atolls, 87 self-service banking centers, 143 ATMs, over 200 agents, and a full suite of digital banking services.

BML states it remains committed to supporting individuals, businesses and communities across Maldives.


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