The conference call dealing with the outlook of the rail and trucking industry for the year 2013 was presided over by David Rohal and Ed Caruso, who carefully assessed the macro and micro economic factors that could affect the two industries. David is currently the President of Rohal and Associates and the former COO of Rail America, VP at Genesee & Wyoming, and GM at CSX Corporation. Ed is the principal of Lakeshore Logistics and former transportation and distribution director of Office Max and former Roadway and Yellow Executive. On the macro front, the year 2013 depicted a mixed picture for the railroads with the growth rate hovering around 1.5% to 2% as pointed out by the esteemed members of this conference panel. A lot of the discussion went into identifying the factors that could create windows of growth opportunity to the railroad industry or also impact it negatively. Growth in the intermodal was a major criterion identified to drive the rail industry in the positive direction. Currently, rail intermodal accounts for over 20% of the railroads’ revenue second in line after coal and it is expected that the contribution will rise given the growing dependence on shippers of intermodal services. Also the surge in shale oil and natural gas catapulted growth in petroleum product shipments via rail based transports. The margins were identified to be higher in these kinds of alternative energy shipments for the rail industry. As per the industry sources, the role of the crude oil as a revenue contributor has grown in leaps from a mere 3% to 30%. Last but not the least the increase in automotive shipments and government initiatives like widening of the Panama Canal was also identified by the panel members to affect the rail industry positively.

The major risk hindering the growth of the rail industry was the lingering worries over the coal demand. 2013 as pointed out by David will see a foreseeable decline in the coal exports. Factors like economic overhang in the European markets, higher stockpile levels and increased exports from Indonesia and recovery in the Australian mines were the major contributors to the expected decline. However, the pricing power enjoyed by the freight railroad operators under the Staggers Rail Act will give the players in the industry huge boost in terms of profit margins. It was pointed out that historically railroads have been hiking their freight rates by nearly 5% per annum on average. The duopolistic market structure positions players like Union Pacific, Burlington Northern Santa Fe (controlling western part of the US), CSX Corp and Norfolk Southern (controlling the eastern part) particularly well for the remaining part of 2013. The trucking industry as pointed out by Ed particularly faces a lot challenges in 2013 to sustain the growth. Under the federal regulations, new hours-of-service rules are poised to create a lot of capacity constraints on the industry. As the capacity tightens, companies will look to build on their sustainability initiatives by switching to intermodal rail from traditional trucking lanes. On the contrary, if the economy grows more rapidly than expected, the truck driver shortage will become a significant problem for the trucking industry looking to sustain a rally. If you are interested in listening to the podcast from the event or engaging David or Ed in a one on one discussion please contact info@roulstonresearch.com.

General Motors is announcing a partnership with AT&T that will bring embedded 4G LTE mobile Internet access into most 2015 GM vehicles sold in the U.S. and Canada, which signifies the largest implementation of 4G LTE in vehicles to date. BMW, Audi and Chrysler have each announced similar features will be added to a number of their different models. Mark Ramsey has long argued that there would soon be a competitor to radio in automobiles that will be s substitute for radio stations consumers listen to today. He believes broadcasters must:

1. Provide more value to consumers in more ways and across more platforms by leveraging the huge number and depth of relationships we enjoy today in part through the power of technology. Be more relevant by being more relevant.

2. Provide exclusive “must hear” content that can’t be easily or cheaply substituted by alternatives. If Ford can program a better radio platform than you can, you deserve to lose.

To read the whole article please visit Mark’s blog at http://www.markramseymedia.com/2013/02/what-4g-lte-internet-access-in-your-car-means-for-radio/.

Mark Ramsey Media is one of the best-known research and strategy providers to media companies in America. He has worked with several television and innumerable radio broadcasters over his career, including all the biggest names, from Clear Channel, CBS, Bonneville, Sirius XM, and Greater Media in the US to Corus and Astral Media in Canada. Clients from outside broadcasting have included EA Sports and Apple.

On February 22nd Roulston Research hosted an Oil Services Conference Call with Philip Hyatt, Managing Partner, Petronomics Partners, Former VP, Nabors, Offshore, Contracts and Business Development, and Eric Brown, Former Senior Vice President and General Counsel, Transocean, Former General Counsel, Coastal Gas Marketing Company. The two men provided insight into the current and future of offshore drilling and who may or may not have and advantage after Macondo. They also discussed energy service companies and what impact and changes are needed for the future. Initially, on a very basic level, the problem faced by companies is labor force. Such a huge amount of baby boomers are retiring that replacements on drilling rigs are very inexperienced. That is a major cause for concern. This reduces the quality and increases chances for breakdowns and downtime. This problem is likely to affect smaller companies but big names like Halliburton and Schlumberger won’t take as big a hit. The impact of Macondo will be seen in new drilling projects. The US has placed regulations on deep water ventures that increase equipment maintenance costs. These careful considerations cut deeper into profits. These also put more strain on the contracting companies. The whole project has become more expensive and time consuming. Even companies that aren’t bound by the US regulations are adopting these new procedures in the wake of Macondo.

There is a different outlook on the problems and advantages in the domestic fracturing and drilling. This side of the energy business is facing its own set of problems. The Natural gas has nearly dried up and prices are down. Companies are looking at more oily products such as NGLs. For diverse companies the shift in their product mix won’t take as bad a hit and they should be able to handle the switch. Smaller companies and single product oriented in energy will see the biggest problems moving forward. There is still the looming concern about how the Obama Administration and EPA might crack down and implement new rules. The big names with capital would most likely be at the forefront for renewable energy. Big drillers contracts aren’t likely to be affected. The Macondo has taken its toll on prices and labor but it hasn’t slowed the amount of drilling contracts. There is still money to be made and the strict rules take there hit across the industry. Companies with good management should be able to adjust accordingly. Upcoming players in the industry have the issue of growing too fast. Setting up too many rigs strains resources and labor. It dilutes the management and makes it harder to control. Workers are often not up to par at their position when a company grows to fast. Companies discussed on the call included Seadrill, Transocean, Nabors, Diamond Offshore, Schlumberger, Baker Hughes, and Haliburton among others. If you are interested in listening to the podcast of the conference call or to engage Phil or Eric in a 1 on 1 discussion please contact info@roulstonresearch.com.

There has been a lot of debate of how dollar stores will fare in 2013. One side believes that because dollar stores have opened up thousands of new stores this past decade they sector has reached the point of over saturation. The other argues that the improving economy will start to hurt dollar stores as consumers trade up after years of strong performance during the Great Recession. Dick Seesel believes it will be a mix of both stating, “The best-run dollar stores (Dollar General and Family Dollar) aren’t going away anytime soon. But it’s likely that their store-for-store sales growth will slow as post-recession shoppers start “trading up” to Walmart. It’s also likely that their rapid store expansion will cause some cannibalization of their own comp-store sales. A bigger concern is the dollar stores’ increased focus on food and consumables during the last few years. Margins are tight in these categories, and the competition is intense—not only from the discounters but also from rapidly growing chains like Aldi.” To read the full article please visit http://www.retailwire.com/blog-post/ac2bb53e-ccf2-411a-88c4-aeec381d4fe8/are-dollar-stores-headed-up-or-down.

Richard Seesel is the Manager and owner of Retailing In Focus, LLC. He was most recently a Senior Vice President and Divisional Merchandise Manager at Kohl’s Department Stores. Dick is proud to have helped Kohl’s grow from 18 stores to a national retail powerhouse, during an era of change and consolidation throughout the retail industry.

Roulston Research recently held another one of their most in-depth retail roundtables featuring two retail veterans, Seth Johnson and Steve Dennis who both have over 30 years of experience in the retail industry. Seth Johnson is the former CEO of Pacific Sunwear, and former COO and CFO of Abercrombie & Fitch. Steve Dennis is the founder and president of Sageberry Consulting, former SVP of strategy and marketing at Neiman Marcus, and former VP of Multichannel Integration and Development at Sears, Roebuck and Company. There has been a lot of discussion and unanswered questions about the trends problems facing retail industry. Many retailers are still struggling to improve operations and market share while continuing to refine their business models. While many retailers continue to struggle, there are some retailers who are maintaining a successful business model, such as American Eagle Outfitters and Zumiez and have continued to weather the storm and outperform.

Some of the views expressed during their roundtable include J.C. Penney’s definite need of a transformation from their previous lagging business model, however the new model just didn’t deliver quite as much as analysts would have liked. The problem wasn’t with J.C. Penney’s change but the initial wrong turn during their transformation by initially attacking pricing and not focusing on products and experience as much. J.C. Penney hasn’t quite figured out how to implement the right pricing/promotional mix and the direction of the company is still in question. Sears strategy is still not clear as to what they have in store to help free them from this downward spiral and the company faces many challenges regarding their brands and the overall company. Slowly over time Sears brands have continued to deteriorate and there is no bright light at the end of the tunnel for the company. One possibility mentioned for Sears is to distribute their brands, such as Craftsman’s and Kenmore Appliances to retailers such as Lowes or Home Depot. Another company mentioned, Zumiez, has been consistent as far as performance and prides themselves as being the authentic. The teen space in general, has not really produced any outstanding players and consists of most retailers in the space doing a pretty good job of controlling their businesses and improving their comps. PacSun and Kohl’s business has been following a trend that has kind of stabilized. The presenters credit this factor due to a market that seems to have flatlined. Companies that are covered and not mentioned above include QuikSilver, American Eagle Outfitters, Aeropostale, Abercrombie & Fitch, Neiman Marcus and more. If you are interested in listening to the podcast from the event or engaging Seth or Steve in a 1 on 1 discussion please contact info@roulstonresearch.com.

Teradata has been a hot name over the past couple years as they have been riding the twin waves of traditional data warehousing and in the new-fangled big data space. The company recently beat Wall Street’s expected 4th quarter projections but left investors disappointed with 2013 revenue growth projected to be between 6 and 10 percent and earnings per share between $2.64 and $2.79 after several years of rapid growth. While Teradata believes 2013 will be tighter than many expect with macroeconomic headwinds causing customers to defer purchases or buying stuff in smaller increments, Tim believes the company will be in good shape. He believes, “This seems pretty prudent as Teradata expands from a data warehouse system vendor to a multi-channel, multi-platform marketing expert (as IBM and Oracle are also doing through their acquisitions). This is about a whole lot more than complex ad-hoc queries. Teradata has expanded its business not just through acquisitions, but by boosting the number of sales territories where it is peddling its wares, and putting feet on the street in those territories. In a conference call with Wall Street analysts, president and CEO Mike Koehler said that it added 49 new territories last year, up a bit from what it was going to do, and that since it started expanding its sales areas in the teeth of the Great Recession in 2008, it has boosted the count by nearly half to a total of 569.” To read his whole article please visit http://www.theregister.co.uk/2013/02/08/teradata_q4_2012_numbers/.

Tim Morgan is the Systems Editor of the UK based Register and is President and Editor in Chief of IT Jungle. He has been keeping a keen eye on the midrange system and server markets for 15 years, and was one of the founding editors of The Four Hundred, the industry’s first subscription-based monthly newsletter devoted exclusively to the IBM AS/400 minicomputer, established in 1989. For the past decade, Morgan has also performed in-depth market and technical studies on behalf of computer hardware and software vendors that helped them bring their products to the AS/400 market or move them beyond the IBM midrange into the computer market at large.

In retail right now omnichannel has become a trendy topic as retailers try to make the customer experience as consumer friendly as possible. Its increased importance has concerned some industry veterans who are worried of cannibalizing bricks-and-mortar sales among other things. Dick Seesel doesn’t believe the myth holds up stating, “Online retailing cannibalizing sales from other channels is probably the most harmful to retailers’ development of true omnichannel strategies. As long as your retail business builds an artificial wall between your bricks-and-mortar business and your e-commerce business, you will not maximize either one. Macy’s and many other high-profile retailers have figured this out: They are enjoying synergies that are driving traffic to stores and websites as well as making their inventory more productive.” To view Dick’s whole article please visit his blog at http://retailinginfocus.com/.

Richard Seesel is the Manager and Owner of Retailing In Focus, LLC. He was most recently as Senior Vice President and Divisional Merchandise Manager at Kohl’s Department Stores. Dick is proud to have helped Kohl’s grow from 18 stores to a national retail powerhouse, during an era of change amd consolidation throughout the retail industry.