The Pantagraph from Bloomington, Illinois on October 30, 1990 · Page 29
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The Pantagraph from Bloomington, Illinois · Page 29

Bloomington, Illinois
Issue Date:
Tuesday, October 30, 1990
Page 29
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American MTTU7 VfDV tv NEW YORK (AP) American Express Co. yesterday took a swipe at AT& T's popular Universal credit card with a broad new marketing strategy that enables customers to easily charge calls using the MCI and Sprint long-distance companies. The "Connect Plus" package of services lets cardholders make long-distance calls by punching in their account number, and offers 10 percent discounts on most MCI and Sprint calls made, using the American Express card. The program, fully available to Sprint users Thursday and MCI users Jan. 1, is the latest response by a financial services firm to American Telephone & Telegraph Co.'s unexpectedly successful entry into the credit card business last March. Since AT&T began offering Visa and Mastercard services to cus Halloween doesn't scare consumers away from stores SCHENECTADY, N.Y. (AP) -Despite a slowing economy and talk of a recession, consumers haven't been spooked out of spending money for Halloween. All Hallows Eve, the largest money-grossing holiday behind Christmas, is a "recession-proof business, say costume manufacturers and retailers. "Halloween remains good during all times, whether there's an economic slowdown or not," said Howard Beige, vice president of sales at Rubies Costume Company Inc. in New York. "During an economic slowdown people may purchase fewer major appliances and take fewer trips. But when it comes to spending money on themselves or for a party Jhcy do. Halloween survives recessions very well." ! $2 billion spent ; Fifty million Americans are expected to celebrate Halloween this .'year, estimates Hallmark, the holiday and greeting card giant in Kansas City, Mo. II They'll spend $400 million for 'costumes and accessories and up ; to $2 billion once candy, pumpkins Jand other items are included, 'Hallmark said. The company said ;that's slightly more than what was spent last year. Adults are one reason for the financial success of Halloween, "."which dates back to 700 B.C. and the Druids who believed the souls of the dead returned to mingle ; with the living on this one night of the year. I Party occasion ; Halloween is. the second most popular adult party occasion behind New Year's Eve and adults account for 25 percent of all costume sales, Hallmark said, i J "Halloween is a party occasion ghat's continuing to grow," said Hallmark spokeswoman Sherry frimbrook. "A recession or slbw "economy won't interfere. People ,Vill still seek out fun and fantasy." ; "It's so darn important to have a 'good time, especially during bad "times," said Jack Sheehan, owner '"o the Costumer, a 73-year-old cos-jtume shop in Schenectady, N.Y. I "My mother used to tell me that Jduring the depression they'd go without meat for a week to be able Wall Street finds little inspiration in budget passage f NEW YORK (AP) - Stock prices fell yesterday as traders found lit-Jle inspiration in Congress's passage of a federal budget plan. The battered banking group suffered some' of the day's most notable losses. The Dow Jones average of 30 industrials, up about 20 points in the early going, closed down 5.94 points at 2,430.20. Mutual funds told to remove misleading names WASHINGTON, D.C. (AP) -Federal securities regulators are telling mutual funds to remove from their names any suggestions that the funds are insured by the government ' In a letter to all 3,500 investment 'companies registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission, SEC officials stated a new get-tough policy to protect investors from even inadvertent confusion. ; "Funds that currently have names using such terms as 'guaranteed' or 'insured' in conjunction Express tomers with a 10 percent discount on all charged long distance calls the long distance phone giant says it has opened about. 3.6 million Universal accounts and distributed about 6 million cards. With 70 million long-distance customers, AT&T's entry into the highly competitive and profitable credit card industry has raised fears among U.S. banks and financial companies that they could lose business. By adding the convenience of long-distance calling to existing services, these firms are hoping to simply retain customers, observers say. "AT&T's the bogey man here for everyone," said David Robertson, vice president of The Nilson Report, a credit-card industry newsletter published in Santa Monica, Calif. New entries like American Express' are "a way to increase value of existing cards and main to go to a movie on Saturday night," Sheehan said. Not much cost Glenn Sanders, a psychology professor at the State University of New York at Albany, said hard times do make the idea of fun more important. He also said having a ' good time on Halloween doesn't involve spending a lot of money. "It's not just that people want to have fun. There's not much cost associated with Halloween," Sanders said. "People want to have fun with expensive cars, but that's something that's very much tied to the economy and whether there's a recession. Halloween involves a small amount of money relative to Christmas or other entertainment decisions people will make." Manufacturers and retailers seem to have no apprehensions about business. Rubies, which manufactures costumes and other Halloween merchandise, introduced 250 new products this year. "We've seen a moderate increase . over last year's sales. Halloween seems to be selling well," said Beige, although he declined to release sales figures. Emphasis on entertainment Hallmark said its stores are devoting the same amount of space to Halloween merchandise this year as they did last year. "People put an emphasis on entertainment They're not willing to sacrifice entertainment for themselves," said Philip Morris, president of Morris Costumes in Charlotte, N.C., which distributes costumes and Halloween wares across the country. But just in case, some producers , are offering an economy line of merchandise. "We are offering a lower-price range of costume accessories to capture more of the market at the lower end," Beige said. Low-priced alternative Sheehan, whose store carries many of Rubies products, said he has noticed some prudence among consumers this year. He said he'll sell more Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle costumes at $14.98 than he will at $27. "These lower-priced options ex- Declining issues outnumbered advances by more than 2 to 1 in nationwide trading of New York Stock Exchange-listed stocks, with 486 up, 1,037 down and 451 unchanged. Volume on the floor of the Big Board came to 133.98 million shares, against 130.19 million in the previous session. Nationwide, consolidated volume in NYSE-listed issues, including trades in those stocks on regional exchanges and in the over-the-counter market, totaled 168.62 million shares. Over the weekend the House and Senate approved a measure de with words such as 'United States' or 'U.S. government,' should take immediate action to remove those words from their names," said the letter signed by SEC Enforcement Division Director William R. McLucas and Gene A. Gohlke, acting director of the investment management division. It was the second time this month the SEC has urged changes in the mutual fund industry. Last week the SEC asked junk bond mutual funds to better explain the risks involved in such investments. The latest letter said funds announces new phone-charge service tain customers." In June Citibank, the nation's largest credit-card issuer, enlisted MCI to help launch a competitor to AT&T's card. The cards allow users to charge long-distance telephone calls via Visa or Mastercard. American Express, trying to differentiate itself, said a key advantage of "Connect Plus" is that full details about MCI and Sprint long distance phone calls such as date and number called show up on the cardholder's monthly bill. Billings for Visa and MasterCard programs show total phone charges as a one-line item, but MCI subsequently sends callers separate bills that itemize calls. Also with the American Express system, at-home users do not need to punch in their accounts to get the special rates and have the bill appear on their monthly statements. y AP An employee for E.J. Brach Corp. showed sorne of the 16 million pounds of candy corn produced by the candy maker this year. The candy corn has been a traditional Halloween favorite since the company first made it nearly 70 years ago. ist because of the hard economic times," he said. "But the volume of business we have makes up for the fact that we're selling less expensive costumes." Sheehan, who also rents costumes for theatrical productions, said most of his costumes sell for $25 to $35. Rented costumes for adults fetch $40. Latex masks for $29.95 are another big chunk of Halloween sales. This year Saddam Hussein, Ayatollah Khomeini, Fidel Castro and Gorbachev masks are selling well. Outselling all these, however, is the ever-popular Richard M. Nixon mask. "It's that shyster image that's made it popular," Morris said. Some cutbacks likely Halloween producers and retailers insist they aren't likely to suffer this year, but admit things aren't as they used to be. "The crazy spending of the 1980s signed to curtail the government's budget deficit, which reached a near-record $220.4 billion in the fiscal year ended last month. President Bush has said he would sign the bill, ending a prolonged period of wrangling. With that uncertainty out of the way, talk has increased that the Federal Reserve might soon take steps toward at least a slight easing of its monetary policy. But analysts noted that serious problems remain in the government's fiscal outlook. In addition, investors were confronted yesterday with new increases in world should refrain from using terms implying government protection in their titles and warned that sanctions might be imposed "against any fund that continues to use terms in its name or that advertises its securities" in such a way. The Oct 25 letter, made public by the SEC yesterday, stated that even mutual funds that invest a majority of their assets in U.S. government securities which are guaranteed are not themselves guaranteed or insured by the government "Recently there have been some AT&T's Universal Card, on the other hand, requires at-home users to punch in their phone codes to get the phone call listed on the Universal Card's Visa or Mastercard bill. At-home calls that appear on AT&T's Universal card bill are charged at a calling card rate as opposed to lower direct-dial rates, although the 10 percent discount narrows the difference. An AT&T spokesman dismissed American Express' cost advantage, saying the card's annual fee swallows savings for calls made at home. Charter membership in the Universal card is free. "We don't see what's being offered by MCI and Sprint as anything new," said the spokesman, Bruce Reid. "This looks like a repackaging of old ideas." While American Express aides is gone. When the dust settles, not all of us will be here," said Sheehan, whose annual sales total about $1 million. Sheehan believes the slowing economy will force many of the nation's leading chainstores to cut back on the amount of Halloween merchandise they sell. He said that will allow specialty stores to recoup business they lost when chains jumped on the Halloween band wagon in the last decade. "Halloween is over retailed. Maybe a recession will be a correcting factor," Sheehan said. Regardless, he said sales at Halloween will always be strong because consumers are spending money on themselves. Morris agreed. "With Christmas, consumers may cut back on things they're going to buy or the amount they'll spend. The expenditure is not for themselves," he said. "Halloween is. It's . escapism, and it's fun." oil prices. Crude oil for December delivery climbed $1.67 a barrel to $34.68 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. The NYSE's composite index of all its listed common stocks slumped 1.47 to 165.24. Standard & Poor's industrial index fell 3.05 to 355.45, and S&P's 500-stock composite index was down 2.83 at 301.88. The NASDAQ composite index for the over-the-counter market dropped 3.56 to 330.80. At the American Stock Exchange, the market value index closed at 288.79, down 2.60. advertisements that play up names of the funds with 'government guaranteed' something or other," Gohlke said in a telephone interview. "We're concerned the names of the funds may give the unsophisticated investor the idea that the U.S. government is guaranteeing the fund shares themselves, which is not the case." L. Erick Kanter, a spokesman from the Investment Company Institute, a Washington-based trade association for 2,900 mutual funds, said the group had no immediate comment on the SEC letter. declined to discuss sales goals, industry expert Robertson said he expects that 20 percent to 25 percent of the company's 26 million subscribers will sign up as members of the new program. That's a higher percentage than the estimated 18 percent of all MasterCard and Visa cards that also will function as telephone calling cards within two years, said Robertson, vice president of The Nilson Report, which conducted a study on the subject. American Express is backing its new service with a direct mail campaign, via the monthly newsletter sent to all cardmembcrs. American Express also will make selective mailings to customers deemed likely to sign up. The company may consider broader advertising of Connect Plus later, said Norma Arnold, senior vice president of membership Merrill Lynch proposes management overhaul NEW YORK (AP) - Merrill Lynch & Co. announced a sweeping management overhaul yesterday that could lead to several hundred job cuts at the nation's biggest securities firm. The reorganization replaces Merrill's separate consumer and capital markets groups with six business divisions, eliminating a structure in place since 1984. It also creates a mechanism for Merrill to replace company chairman and chief executive William A. Schreyer, who is to retire in 1993 at age 65. Schreyer took over Merrill in 1985. Analysts said the move reflects a renewed emphasis on individual Investors and other clients over the creation of new products. Investment banking fields such as junk bonds and merchant banking created large profits in the mid-1980s, but have slumped in the last three years. "Everybody has next to nothing or negative profits on the institutional side," said Perrin Long, an industry analyst with Lippcr Analytical Securities Corp. Schreyer and Merrill President Daniel Tully said in a statement that the new structure will focus management "as closely as possible on meeting the needs and exceeding the expectations of the key client groups we serve." Merrill's stock fell 87Vi cents yesterday to close at $16.75 on the New York Stock Exchange, after dropping $1.75 on Friday. The stock closed on Oct 16 at $16.12Vi, its lowest level since the first quarter of 1980. The six new business divisions, each run by an executive vice president, are private client, asset management, insurance, investment banking, debt markets and equity markets. Each will operate under the full Merrill name. Merrill spokesman Fred Yager Lottery ticket left as bar tip yields $25,000 PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) -Keith Thomlinson is used to getting pretty decent tips as a bartender at a restaurant near the Newport beaches, but it took a little luck to earn a $25,000 gratuity. Russell Clark, a frequent patron at the Greenhouse Inn and Restaurant just off Newport's First Beach, left Thomlinson an instant lottery ticket as a tip Wednesday. When Thomlinson finally got around to scratching off the numbers on the instant "Baseball" game, he discovered he had won the $25,000 grand prize. After about $5,000 in federal taxes and $1,200 for the state, he carried home nearly $19,000. EXTENSION From D1 Some center staff would be located in county unit offices. Programs developed at the centers would continue to be offered at traditional county meeting sites. Decisions concerning the number of workers housed in county offices, retention of county offices and locations of educational centers will be left up to county Extension councils. Such groups are composed of residents interested in local programming for urban and rural youth as well as adults. Council members from around the state attacked an Extension advisory committee earlier this year for ignoring council input in THE PANTAGRAPH, Tuesday, Oct. 30, 1990 D3 marketing at American Express Travel Related Services Co. Robertson said American Express is likely to woo cardholders' to the service because of its success as a direct-mail marketer and its high percentage of corporate card customers, who make a disproportionately large number of the nation's long distance calls. However, the new entry should intensify overall competition in the card business, with those that squeeze the most services into one card coming out on top. "There's going to be a shakeout all right. You have consolidation going on even as we speak," said Bruce Brittain, president of Brit-tain Associates Inc., an Atlanta, Ga.-based research and consulting firm specializing in financial services. "Some of the regional and local issuers around the country are getting out of business." said the reorganization was not. designed to reduce staff, but that; several hundred jobs may be re-; duced in the next several months as support staff operations are consolidated. Merrill has 39,000; employees, down from a peak of' 50,000 in 1987. ' A top Merrill executive told analysts earlier this year that if busi-,' ness conditions continued to dete-; riorate the firm would consider furloughing 10 percent of its staff. ' The restructuring was the second at Merrill this year. The firm in January took a $470 million charge; against earnings to pay for an. overhaul that included about 3,000' layoffs and the shutdown of several ' - business lines. Merrill earlier this month reported third-quarter earnings of $46.1 million, or 38 cents a share. . That was down 38 percent from the, second quarter but 6 percent' higher than an especially weak! 1989 third quarter. , ; J Yager said the latest restructur-; ing is expected to save Merrill "tens of millions of dollars" over ", an unspecified period of time. The firm will continue to evaluate its businesses under the January re- structuring, he said. ' ' The six new divisions will oper- ate within the overall management , of the firm. Under the two-sector; structure, Merrill's individual-; investor operations and capital , markets group operated autono-.' mously. " ; John Stcffens, 49, an executive vice president in charge of Mer-' rill's consumer markets operation, ' will run the private-client division, i which deals with individual in-vestors and small- and medium-' sized business. s One other executive vice presi-' dent, Thomas Patrick, 47, currently chief financial officer, will head the insurance division. ' "It sat there for almost two days until I scrubbed it off," Thomlinson said yesterday. "I was just shocked." Thomlinson, 42, shared his good fortune. He gave $1,800 to , Clark and $5,000 to his parents, Raymond and Marguerite of Detroit. "She's going to pay bills," Thomlinson said of his mother. "Dad's retired. They don't have a real big pension." Clark said he probably would use his $1,800 to buy more lottery tickets. He said he likes to leave more than just a cash tip at restuarants, and often gives candy, flowers or lottery tickets. "It's just something I do," he said. But Clark, 60, does have some second thoughts. "If I figured I would be passing out $25,000, 1 might do it differently," he said. CES 2000. Bob Sampson, university ', communications specialist, said J those concerns will be heeded, in; fine-tuning CES Revitalization. ', "The last thing we want to do is i impose the location of structures. We want to just let them evoWe J with council input," said Sampson. "CES 2000 was simply an illustra-! tion of how the system should look. J Some people misunderstood the 1 plan as being set in stone." . County council members will begin critically reviewing CES Re-! vitalization after the first of the ; year. The university's $8 million funding request will be presented ' to the Illinois Board of Higher! Education at that time. Illinois legislators will take up the issue in v the spring.

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