It was a rough year for retailers – first, pummeled by horrendous weather and ice storms in the southeast, millions of days of worker productivity were lost. Much of that lost retail revenue is never recovered – instead going to pay for everything from snow removal to higher home utility bills and repairs. The second quarter was better and the third quarter of GDP really rocked.
Then there was the hacking. The high profile events included Target (at the end of 2013), Home Depot, Dairy Queen, Michaels Stores, and dozens of others. Just last night we saw something from KrebsOnSecurity.com about Chick-Fil-A stores having been digitally compromised. Seems to be a weekly event. Kudos to Brian Krebs by the way – many scoops were made by his website this year!
No end in sight for this mess – of course it has been a long time building so we can’t expect instant resolution. There will definitely be some progress made this year as companies increase spending on IT infrastructure. Perhaps the easy money has been made by the crooks, but I suspect hacking will be a part of our future for ever!
A lot of funding took place for point of sale companies, mobile wallets, payment solutions and payment processors of all types and in particular, funding for cloud POS companies.
Acquisitions – cheap money also aided the occurrence of a lot of other transactions. Monster sales including the Zebra – Motorola Solutions acquisition and the Oracle – Micros deal surprised a lot of people and the valuations were quite sweet for those being acquired. A list of acquisitions can be found here: Point of Sale (POS) Mergers and Acquisitions of 2014
There wa s the blow-up and bust of Mt. Gox, a Bitcoin player. Somehow a few hundred million dollars went missing and got blamed on hacking. Easy come easy go… I suspect that the instant vaporization of companies involved in digital currencies will be an annual event. Nonetheless, the US government recently auctioned off some Bitcoins and demand was substantial. Personally, if I’m going to gamble, I prefer either Wall Street or even Las Vegas, where the action and the players and the odds are mostly known. Funny thing about digital currencies – maintaining their value absolutely requires meticulous record keeping – something often at odds with the desire for privacy by those who would use the currency for nefarious transactions. (Silk Road Trafficker Serving Time)
For 2015 the US economy is expected to continue to improve, employment is climbing and that bodes well for consumer spending patterns. Also home prices increased slightly (except in NYC where they continue to soar – although rumor has it that the skyrocketng US dollar is taking some starch out of the market).
Interest rate increases are on the horizon and I think that will be a non-event for retail. And ultimately good for business. My hope is that funding for flat-out-stupid ventures and spending at crazy acquisition prices, will dry up. There are trillions yet to be lost from the excesses we’ve been watching go by these last few years. From where I sit, much of this year has brought back memories of 1998 and 1999 – that wild buildup before the dot com meltdown of 2000-2001. No, I don’t think this time is all that much different. I’m waiting for a few students from Cal Tech, or Wharton or MIT to write a better search engine routine, or start a new payments company. I don’t believe the barriers-to-entry in half of the wildly surging niches are all that high. And as fast as some of our mega-star companies have rocketed to success, their fall from stardom will be equally as dramatic. The cellphone industry offers a model for this. Blackberry, Motorola, Nokia, Palm and others have ascended and fallen quickly.