business news in context, analysis with attitude

• From the National Retail Federation (NRF): "A record 189.6 million U.S. consumers shopped from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday this year, an increase of 14 percent over last year’s 165.8 million, the National Retail Federation and Prosper Insights & Analytics said today … Shoppers spent an average $361.90 on holiday items over the five-day period, up 16 percent from $313.29 during the same period last year. Of the total, $257.33 (71 percent) was specifically spent on gifts. The biggest spenders were 25- to 34-year-olds at $440.46, closely followed by those 35-44 at $439.72."

NRF also said that its survey "found that 124 million people shopped in stores while 142.2 million shopped on retailers’ websites; demonstrating today’s seamless shopping world, 75.7 million did both. Consumers who shopped in both channels spent an average $366.79, spending at least 25 percent more than those who shopped in only one or the other."

• From Bloomberg: "Bumble Bee Foods former Chief Executive Chris Lischewski was convicted in a price-fixing conspiracy, capping a years-long U.S. investigation that shook the packaged-seafood industry and pushed Bumble Bee into bankruptcy protection last month.

"Lischewski was found guilty Tuesday by a federal jury in San Francisco after just a few hours of deliberations in what experts say is likely the final piece of the Justice Department investigation. Prosecutors alleged that Lischewski conspired with colleagues and executives at rival companies on a 'peace proposal' in order to boost prices and meet earnings targets set by Bumble Bee’s 2010 sale to Lion Capital.

"The former CEO faces up to 10 years in prison and a fine of $1 million, according to the indictment."

• The Wall Street Journal reports that "Acosta Inc., the marketing firm owned by Carlyle Group LP, has gone bankrupt after big consumer-product firms decided to do more of the work themselves to keep up with changing consumer tastes. The company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in Wilmington, Delaware, with support from creditors on a plan that would hand them ownership of a reorganized company and slash $3 billion of long-term debt."

The story notes that Acosta "helps stock shelves for some of the largest U.S. consumer goods companies and offers sales and marketing services to brands including Campbell’s, Kellogg’s and Coca-Cola," but that business had been "squeezed" - which seems like an understatement - "as customers handle more of the marketing tasks in-house. They’re dealing with changing consumer behavior, including a shift from packaged goods to fresh foods, and to private label rather than traditional brands, leaving less demand for outside marketing firms.

"The bankruptcy filing listed total liabilities of $1 billion to $10 billion, and no more than $1 billion in assets."

• PepsiCo announced that it is acquiring BFY Brands, which makes the PopCorners snack brand, from private equity firm Permira.

PepsiCo said that the deal "will expand Frito-Lay's snacking portfolio and further deliver on its Winning with Purpose vision to offer consumers more positive nutritious options."

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.
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