Web Outfit Takes Lead As A Bazaar For Photo Memories and Foreclosures Down The Road May Offer Investors Better Deals

And that’s fine with e-commerce photo outfit Shutterfly (SFLY), which provides 4×6 prints directly to consumers or through Target (TGT) stores. From its California base and utilizing two state-of-the-art manufacturing plants in Arizona and North Carolina, Shutterfly makes prints and much more.  The “more” part photo books, cards, calenders and stationery is growing faster and has higher margins. “We’re not the market leader in prints, which is the declining or legacy part of our business,” said Shutterfly CEO Jeffrey Housenbold, none too sadly.

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Industrywide, single prints are becoming less popular as consumers share and store photos online.

Shutterfly is the market leader in online personalized photo products and services, the “more” part.

Revenue in its personalized photo group rose 29% in the fourth quarter from the earlier year to $93.2 million, making up 71% of total revenue. Photo books made up the fastest-growing niche in that group. [Read the full article]

Buying now often involves bidding wars. Better opportunities may arise soon as more repossessed homes head toward auction.

“There are too many investors and not enough inventory,” said William Cole, a San Diego insurance salesman aiming to invest in Southern California’s hard-hit Riverside County. “I’m expecting a new wave of foreclosures to bulk up the low stockpiles as investors exit the market due to lack of funds.”

Cole, age 42, wants a property or two that can yield positive cash flow over the long haul. Aided by a real estate agent, he has made more than a dozen bids in the past five months. They’ve lost out to low-ball all-cash offers and bids from buyers with Federal Housing Administration loans.

Repossessions are stoking the pipeline of homes that will become available to investors. Foreclosure listings firm RealtyTrac says REOs, or real estate owned by lenders, jumped 31% year over year in January. [Read the full article]

February sales at stores open at least a year grew 4.1% vs. February 2009, said Ken Perkins, president of Retail Metrics. That easily topped Wall Street’s forecast of a 3% rise. A hefty 78% of chains beat views. It was the sixth straight gain for same-store sales gain.

The results were particularly impressive given February’s many snow storms that hit the Northeast and Midwest, noted Perkins.

“Maybe consumers are starting to feel a little better about their long-term security,” he said. “That’s not reflected in the consumer confidence numbers. And the jobs market still has a ways to go. But I think it signaled that maybe the 90% of the work force that’s working feels a little better.”

Specialty apparel was the strongest segment, with a 8.1% rise in comps, computes Perkins. Teen apparel stores enjoyed a 4.8% gain vs. forecasts for a decline.

Perkins says retailers did a good job in offering lower price points and luring shoppers with attractive springs fashions. [Read the full article]

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