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VOL. 6 | NO. 42 | Saturday, October 12, 2013

Daily Digest

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MAAR Reports Home Sales Flat in September

Memphis-area home sales for September rose 1 percent from a year ago, but sharply declined from August, according to the Memphis Area Association of Realtors.

MAAR reported 1,309 sales were recorded in the Memphis area in September, up from 1,296 in September 2012. But sales fell 23 percent from August, when 1,702 sales were recorded, according to MAAR.

Through September, average sales price rose 10.2 percent to $142,738. Inventory was up 1.2 percent, with 6,678 units listed for sale.

Sales volume through the first nine months of the year increased 21.1 percent to $1.78 billion.

“It is encouraging to see pricing up so much from this time a year ago. That’s good for sellers,” said MAAR president Regina Hubbard. “But interest rates are still pretty good for buyers, so the market is staying in balance.”

MAAR records sales in Shelby, Fayette and Tipton counties.

Fred’s September Sales Figure Rises

Fred’s Inc., the operator of a chain of nearly 700 discount stores in the southeastern U.S., said Thursday, Oct. 10, that an important sales measurement rose 2.8 percent in September compared with a year ago.

Analysts expected a 2.3 percent rise, according to Thomson Reuters.

Revenue in stores open at least one year is considered an important measurement of a retailer’s performance because it strips out the effects of opening new stores.

Total sales for the month rose 4 percent to $177.3 million from $170.9 million last year.

Year to date, revenue in stores open at least one year rose 0.8 percent, while total sales rose 1 percent to $1.301 billion.

Fred’s CEO Bruce Efird said the sales were on the high end of the company’s projected range, due to better general merchandise and pharmacy sales.

Fred’s shares have traded in a range of $12.30 to $17.71 over the past year.

Beale Voted ‘Most Iconic American Street’

When it comes to the character and distinctiveness associated with a city’s most famous streets, there’s a certain street in the heart of Downtown Memphis that stands above the competition.

That’s according to voters who picked Beale Street as the winner of a 10Best and USA Today contest to find the “Iconic American Street.”

10Best describes itself as providing travel content about attractions, things to do and restaurants for destinations in the U.S. and abroad.

Beale had some stiff competition, beating out other famed streets like The Strip in Las Vegas and New Orleans’ Bourbon Street.

Decadent Avenue To Open Memphis Showroom

Decadent Avenue, an e-commerce home furnishings retailer, will open its first North American Showroom in Memphis and help a worthy cause while doing it.

Decadent Avenue will open its 25,000-square-foot showroom at 888 S. White Station Rd. in East Memphis Nov. 1 at 10 am.

To commemorate the opening, the store will donate a portion of the weekend’s sales proceeds to Le Bonheur Children’s Hospital.

Decadent Avenue’s operators have a long history in retail. The company’s sister stores, Birmingham Wholesale Furniture and Louisiana Furniture Gallery, have been in business for more than 65 years combined.

Decadent Avenue will offer mid- to high-end home furnishings. Customers will be paired with a personal home designer to help with the furnishing process, including space planning.

Paragon Displays Student Art at Saddle Creek

Paragon National Bank is displaying artwork from the Bodine School in its Saddle Creek banking center, 7600 Poplar Ave., during October.

Paragon worked with art teacher Lori Wakefield to display self-portrait paintings by 20 students in the first and second grades.

The Renaissance- and Leonardo da Vinci-themed works will be on display in the main lobby of the bank’s Saddle Creek banking center until Oct. 31.

The Bodine School, located in Germantown, provides an educational experience that focuses on teaching Memphis-area children with dyslexia to read and succeed.

Cash Saver Renovations Continue Without Bakery

Renovations under way at the Cash Saver grocery at 1620 Madison Ave. no longer include space for chef Jason Doty to open his planned Crust & Crumb Bakery there.

Taylor James, the Cash Saver beer manager, said the project was not moving forward because of personal issues involving Doty, and the business tweeted this week: “Based on information made available to us today, our remodel plans at Cash Saver Madison no longer includes space for Crust & Crumb Bakery.”

30-Year Mortgage Rate Averages 4.23 Percent

Average U.S. rates on fixed mortgages were little changed this week, staying near their lowest levels in three months.

Mortgage buyer Freddie Mac said Thursday that the average rate on the 30-year loan edged up to 4.23 percent from 4.22 percent last week. The average on the 15-year fixed loan rose to 3.31 percent from 3.29 percent.

Both are the lowest averages since July.

Mortgage rates began falling last month after the Federal Reserve held off slowing its $85 billion-a-month in bond purchases. The bond buys are intended to keep longer-term interest rates low, including mortgage rates.

Longer-term rates have also stayed low because of the partial government shutdown and a lack of government economic data.

The shutdown that began this month has spurred investors to sell stocks and buy Treasury bonds. Mortgage rates tend to follow the yield on the 10-year Treasury note. The 10-year note traded at 2.67 percent Wednesday, up from 2.63 percent last week but down from 2.71 percent on Sept. 23.

The shutdown could also slow the housing recovery, if it lasts for more than a few weeks.

Retailers Report Modest September Sales Gains

Several retailers reported modest sales gains for September as shoppers who were worried about a partial government shutdown and the overall economy pulled back their spending from the prior month. The results increase concerns about how shoppers will spend for the crucial holiday season, the largest shopping selling period for retailers.

Revenue at stores opened at least a year – a measure of a retailer’s health– rose 2.7 percent in September, according to a preliminary tally of 9 retailers by the International Council of Shopping Centers. That was a slower pace than the 3.5 percent increase posted in August.

L Brands, the parent of Victoria’s Secret, and Costco Wholesale Corp. were among the chains that reported results that missed Wall Street estimates, while Stein Mart Inc. posted results that beat analysts’ expectations.

Only a sliver of retail chains report monthly sales figures, and the list doesn’t include Wal-Mart Stores, Macy’s Inc. and many other large chains. But it offers some clues into consumer spending heading into the holiday shopping season.

Audio Video Artistry To Hold Grand Opening

Memphis-based Audio Video Artistry is holding a grand opening event Oct. 25 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. to celebrate the opening of its new design studio in Cordova. The event, which the company is calling the 7th Inning Soiree, will invite current and prospective clients, media and industry professionals to experience the company’s state-of-the-art design studio up close.

That Friday evening event also falls on an off night of the 2013 World Series, and as a nod to the company’s clients who use its services to create their dream, in-home sports-watching experience, the evening will cater to the high-end sports fan.

Partnering with Joe’s Wines and Liquors and with Slider Inn, the company will offer guests an exclusive pairing menu with chef-inspired sliders and hand-chosen high-gravity brews. A selection of baseball-themed entertainment, including classic movies like “Bull Durham” and “Field of Dreams,” also will be displayed on next-generation technology designed to showcase the company’s audio and video abilities.

Terminix to Open Arizona Center

Memphis-based Terminix is opening a customer care center in Glendale, Ariz.

It is the second such center the pest-control provider, which is part of The ServiceMaster Co., has opened this year. The other is in Tampa, Fla.

The new Glendale center is 32,800 square feet, and the Tampa center is 25,000 square feet.

Panel Rejects Complaint Against Gov. Haslam

The Tennessee Registry of Election Finance has dismissed a complaint against Gov. Bill Haslam for failing to disclose how much he paid an outside adviser.

The panel voted 3-1 on Wednesday to throw out the complaint filed by former state Democratic Party Chairman Chip Forrester.

Tom Ingram was Haslam’s top campaign adviser in his successful 2010 bid for governor.

The governor in the years following his election paid Ingram out of his own pocket for political and policy advice. He has since placed Ingram on his re-election campaign payroll.

The panel rejected Forrester’s argument that Ingram’s political advice was inherently related to his re-election effort, which should have been disclosed.

Ingram is also a contract lobbyist and a spokesman for the Haslam family-owned Pilot Flying J truckstop chain’s response to an FBI investigation into trucking customers being shorted diesel fuel rebates.

Arkansas Lawmakers Endorse Voter ID Rules

Arkansas lawmakers have endorsed the rules enforcing a new state law that will require voters to show photo identification when they cast a ballot.

A subcommittee of the Legislative Council on Wednesday reviewed the rules the state Board of Election Commissioners approved for enforcing the voter ID law. The Republican-controlled Legislature enacted the law earlier this year when it overrode a veto by Democratic Gov. Mike Beebe.

The rules approved in August closely mirror those outlined in the law, which takes effect in January. Opponents of the law have said they plan to sue in state court to block its enforcement.

While Arkansas poll workers already must ask for identification by law, voters don’t have to show it to cast a ballot.

Tennessee Rep. Curtiss Not Seeking Re-Election

State Rep. Charles Curtiss says he will not seek re-election.

The 66-year-old Sparta Democrat didn’t give a specific reason for his decision but said Wednesday he wanted to give candidates considering running for his District 43 seat plenty of time to plan.

Curtiss was elected in 1994 and will have served 20 years when his current term ends.

House Minority Leader Craig Fitzhugh says Curtiss will be missed.

The Ripley Democrat, who was elected at the same time as Curtiss, called him a leader on workers’ compensation, insurance and utility matters, who is “always looking out for the regular working people.”

Family Dollar Quarterly Profit Rises 26 Percent

Family Dollar said Wednesday that its net income rose 26 percent in the fourth quarter as sales improved despite flat customer traffic.

The discount retailer’s average customer transaction and a key revenue metric were also flat. The company gave a cautious 2014 earnings forecast and a first-quarter earnings outlook that was below Wall Street’s average expectations.

Family Dollar Stores Inc. earned $102.2 million, or 88 cents per share, for the period ended Aug. 31. That compares with $80.9 million, or 69 cents per share, in the prior-year period.

Excluding an accounting adjustment, earnings were 86 cents per share. This beat the 83 cents per share that analysts polled by FactSet expected.

Revenue for the Matthews, N.C.-based company rose 6 percent to $2.5 billion from $2.36 billion. Sales of consumables climbed 8.3 percent, helped by higher sales of refrigerated and frozen food, health aids and tobacco.

Wall Street forecast $2.56 billion in revenue.

Revenue at stores open at least a year, a key indicator of a retailer’s health, was flat. This metric excludes results from stores recently opened or closed. The company has more than 7,900 stores in 46 states.

East High STEM Academy Gets $3.4 Million Grant

The Shelby County Schools Virtual STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) Academy at East High School has been awarded a $1.3 million grant from the National Science Foundation.

The grant highlights the collaboration between the school system and the University of Memphis, and will be used to expand their partnership. It is specifically for the pre-engineering strategies project for high school students who use the academy.

The academy, started during the tenure of Memphis City Schools superintendent Kriner Cash, is open to high school students from the entire school district. The students remain at their current schools but attend lab sessions at the academy one day a week to complete STEM coursework during each of the four years they are in high school.

Universal Asset Mgmt. Gets New Owner

Memphis-based Universal Asset Management Inc., a global leader in aviation asset management, aircraft disassembly and commercial aviation aftermarket component sales, has a new owner.

The company announced this week it has been bought by UAM Holdings Inc., a corporation wholly owned and operated by Keri Wright, who will be the new president and CEO. Wright has essentially been running the company for the past several years in her role as chief operating officer, according to company founder and CEO Steve Manley, who also has announced his retirement.

The company said the transaction will enable Universal Asset Management to build upon its customer focus, drive continued organic growth and pursue aviation asset acquisition opportunities.

Archer-Malmo on List Of Top PR Places to Work

Memphis-based marketing communications agency archer-malmo has been included on PR News’ fifth annual “Top Places to Work in PR” list.

The survey recognizes public relations organizations with the best work environment and culture. The Memphis firm was chosen based on criteria that include opportunity for growth, unique or noteworthy benefits and the organization’s internal culture. The awarded organizations were selected by a panel of PR executives, as well as by the staff of PR News.

Walker Associates Names Head of Nashville Branch

Memphis-based marketing and communications firm Walker Associates has added Cecilia Walker as a new account executive.

The daughter of CEO and president Ceil Walker, she enters the company as head of its Nashville branch. She previously worked in the marketing department at Memphis-based investment firm Duncan-Williams Inc., and she’s also worked as a ghost writer and editor for “The Beat Goes On,” a manuscript written by Sun Studios session drummer and Grammy Award winner J.M. Van Eaton.

Olive Branch Factory To Close, Laying Off 100

Closure Systems International Inc. will shutter its Olive Branch factory in December, laying off 100 people.

Human Resources director Jeanette Vaughn said Monday the factory will close Dec. 9.

Officials at the DeSoto County plant are referring further comment to the company’s headquarters near Indianapolis, which is not immediately responding.

The company makes bottle tops at the plant, which has operated since 1985. It had about 150 employees in 2007.

The factory was initially opened by Alcoa Inc., but that company sold the unit in 2008 to New Zealand’s Rank Group for $2.7 billion.

Analyst: Markets Leave Government on Sidelines

Jim Vogel, executive vice president with FTN Financial Capital Markets, wrote in a note to clients this weekend that the private sector is moving forward while policymakers spin their wheels, referring to the U.S. government partial shutdown that continued dragging on as the week began.

“Economists talk about the importance of ‘confidence’ in the federal government as though business leaders have had any since 2010,” Vogel wrote. “The private sector eventually works around issues created by government activism, government stalemates, or government mistakes. Businesses don’t win by waiting on government leadership. … Markets price the economy and leave governments on the sideline if that’s where politicians choose to sit.”

Eighty3 Launches Artists Spotlight

Downtown Memphis’ eighty3 restaurant has launched a new collaborative with local artists called Memphis Artists Spotlight. The purpose is to provide a new venue for artists to showcase and sell their work. Memphis Artists Spotlight will feature a new artist each quarter by displaying pieces on a prominent wall inside the restaurant, and information about the artist and pricing for each piece will be provided to guests who are interested in the art.

The first artist of the new initiative is Sue Layman Lightman. She has been painting for more than 18 years and opened her gallery Downtown in 2006.

John P. Freeman Teacher Honored by State

Melissa Collins, a second-grade teacher at John P. Freeman Optional School, has been honored by the Tennessee Department of Education as teacher of the year for the West Tennessee grand division.

State education officials named one teacher for each of the state’s three grand divisions, and the awards were presented at a banquet last week in Nashville.

Technology Helps Map New Madrid Fault

New research by the U.S. Geological Society suggests that while the New Madrid Seismic Zone hasn’t produced a major earthquake in more than 200 years, the risk remains.

The Southeast Missourian reports that scientists used new technology to develop high-resolution imagery of the seismic zone centered around New Madrid, Mo. The imagery allows for more detailed mapping, showing weak rocks in the zone that are found at deeper depths in the Earth’s mantle compared to surrounding areas. Findings were published recently in the Earth and Planetary Science Letters journal.

The seismic zone produced massive earthquakes, including three greater than magnitude 7, in 1811 and 1812. The quakes were so strong that the Mississippi River reportedly flowed backward and church bells rang as far away as New England.

Charles Langston, director of the Center for Earthquake Research and Information at the University of Memphis, said at least 200 earthquakes occur in the seismic zone every year, but most are very small. He said there is a 7 to 10 percent chance of a magnitude 7.5 or larger quake in the zone in the next half-century, and a 25 to 40 percent chance of a magnitude 6 quake or larger in the same period.

“So there’s a good chance we could have a damaging quake in the next 50 years,” Langston said.

The USGS scientists used data from USArray, a network of 400 seismometers that is part of the National Science

Foundation’s EarthScope Program.

MTSU Offers New Education Doctorate

Middle Tennessee State University is offering a new education doctorate that is the first of its kind in the state.

The Doctor of Education in Assessment, Learning and Pre-K-12 School Improvement will help educators analyze student-learning data to pinpoint areas of success and areas that need improvement.

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RECORD TOTALS DAY WEEK YEAR
PROPERTY SALES 41 41 17,762
MORTGAGES 70 70 23,138
FORECLOSURE NOTICES 1 1 4,519
BUILDING PERMITS 163 163 42,320
BANKRUPTCIES 50 50 16,741
BUSINESS LICENSES 14 14 5,795
UTILITY CONNECTIONS 113 113 25,287
MARRIAGE LICENSES 18 18 5,399

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