Selling Cars by the Bucket, Apparel on Installment, and Rental Properties by the Share

PRICING

A car-selling service groups car buyers into groups to get them a discount from dealers: “CarBuckets, a Miami-based startup, is one of the first companies to bring the idea of ‘buying in bulk’ to retail car buying. The company selects the dealerships allowed on the platform. By grouping consumers into ‘Buckets,’ based on the car brand they want to buy, CarBuckets gets dealers to compete to win the group’s business. The dealer with the lowest overall out-the-door price wins (including all taxes and fees), and consumers in the bucket will be matched with the dealer if they choose. …

“So far, the service has been offered only in South Florida, but now it is expanding nationally. … Users are seeing a 42 percent greater discount on average when they buy with CarBuckets vs. negotiating a price on their own, [CEO Alexandra] Esteve said. ‘Our biggest discount to date was a user who got a $17,885 discount on a pickup. Needless to say, he was very happy.’ Dealers on the platform are happy too because none have dropped their participation, she said.”

E-COMMERCE

Abercrombie and other apparel brands are using services that allow shoppers to pay for purchases in installments: “Seizing an opportunity to drive sales and reach new demographics, Abercrombie is one of many US apparel brands that are now experimenting with buy-now, pay-later programs. In June 2018, Urban Outfitters announced it would offer Afterpay—a Klarna competitor that also offers interest-free installment options—opening up the program for all of its brands including Anthropologie and Free People. … Since multiple payments make a hefty price tag seem more palatable, consumers are more likely to pay full-price rather than wait for sales or discounts. This is, of course, intentional—Afterpay CEO Nick Molnar has said previously that the program has been proven to increase conversion rates and incremental sales by up to 30 percent.”

HUMAN RESOURCES

Despite numerous attempts, tech employees are failing to unionize: “In February, about a dozen employees at a small technology company called NPM embarked on an effort that is often frowned upon at startups: trying to unionize. For more than three months, the workers had battled the company’s new management over their hours, a changing workplace culture and diversity issues, said seven current and former NPM employees. So to give themselves more say, they moved to organize. The employees contacted labor groups, including the International Federation of Professional and Technical Engineers and the Tech Workers Coalition, to hold unionization discussions. …

“Three weeks after the workers began organizing, NPM laid off Mr. Carlson and four other employees, all but one of whom had been involved in the unionizing. After some of those employees filed a formal charge with the National Labor Relations Board, the federal agency that oversees such complaints, NPM settled with the workers last month. No union has been formed. … The difficulties are echoed at other tech companies where recent moves to set up unions have also stalled. At Kickstarter, the crowdfunding site, a unionization effort this year has floundered as organizers struggle to build support. And last year at Lanetix, a logistics software company, more than a dozen engineers were fired after trying to create a union, according to a complaint issued by the NLRB.”

Setting the federal minimum wage at $15 an hour, would cost 1.3 million Americans their jobs but deliver a raise to 17 million: “The agency prepared the report on the effects of lifting the wage from $7.25 an hour ahead of next week’s expected House vote on a bill that would gradually lift the pay floor to $15 an hour by 2024. ‘If you look at the whole report, there’s no question there are significant benefits for a massive number of people that far outweigh whatever the cost might be,’ said Rep. Bobby Scott (D., Va.), chairman of the House labor committee and one of the bill’s top supporters. But Republicans were quick to pounce on the job-loss figures. ‘This report confirms what we already knew,’ Rep. Steve Womack (R., Ark.) said in a statement. ‘American workers and families will lose their jobs if this bill is enacted.’”

REGULATION

Frustrated by the Apple and Microsoft’s monopoly on fixing their broken devices, consumers and independent electronic repair stores are demanding a third-party right to repair: “Last month, a customer brought her 2018 Macbook Air into West Seattle Computers. She had spilled water on it. Technicians took the machine apart, isolated the broken part, and found a potentially easy fix; a power port. The problem was finding a replacement. ‘We can’t get parts directly from Apple,’ says owner Eric Tishkoff, explaining that the company refuses to sell to independent shops like his. He couldn’t find a new one anywhere else either. ‘We just had to hand back the machine and say I’m really sorry.’ This year, right-to-repair bills have been introduced in a record 20 states … drawn from an earlier war that independent auto shops waged against car companies—and won.”

OXFORD STRATEGIC ADVISORY DEAL OF THE DAY  

Piper Jaffray Co. is nearing a deal to buy Sandler O’Neill + Partners LP for $485 million in cash and stock, creating a combined firm that will be called Piper Sandler Cos. Sandler O’Neill is the leader in investment banking services for middle market community banks, having advised on more deals than anyone in their space over the last five years. 

Grant Schuette, Director of Oxford Strategic Advisory, who previously worked at Piper Jaffray Co. with their community bank advisory team says, “This deal will be an excellent addition to Piper Jaffray, especially given the ongoing consolidation of small-to-midsize community banks. Piper has been trying to break into this niche industry since their acquisition of River Branch Holdings in 2015. They had success over the last few years, slowly building their reputation in the space, but now with this acquisition, they will emerge as the market leader.”

STARTUPS

Podshare wants to rent out bunk-beds for $1,200 a month as a way to “make up for the shortage of affordable housing in cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles by renting dormitory-style lodging and providing tenants a co-living experience. A PodShare membership allows you to snag any of the 220 bedsor podsat six locations across Los Angeles and one in San Francisco. There’s no deposit and no commitment. You get a bed, a locker, access to wifi and the chance to meet fellow ‘pod-estrians.’ Each pod includes a shelf and a personal television. Food staples, like cereal and ramen, and toiletries like toothpaste and toilet paper, are also included. …

“Elvina Beck, PodShare’s 34-year-old founder, says that she created these spaces because this is the way she wanted to livemeeting new people, traveling to new placesbut she’s gratified that it provides a safe solution for others who have few options. ‘Maybe they don’t have two months’ rent to put down or they don’t have proof of income,’ she says. ‘Whether it’s from a divorce or their family kicked them out for being gay or because they’re in a different country or a different city.’”

Roofstock offers investors a new way to get a piece of the $26 trillion residential real estate market: The company, “which operates a website where investors buy and sell occupied rental properties without disturbing tenants, has launched a marketplace where investors can buy stakes as low as 10 percent in single-family rental homes. The company’s executives say they hope to make housing investments more like buying stocks and bonds at a time when investors are on a frenzied house hunt.

“The idea: Buying stakes in a number of individual homes lets investors pinpoint their investments without concentrating bets on a single property, [Chief executive Gary] Beasley said. That is a contrast to buying shares in outfits like Invitation, which owns more than 80,000 homes across the country. Investors who purchase shares in Roofstock homes are prevented from selling for six months. After that lockup expires, investors are free to sell their shares for whatever price they can fetch on Roofstock’s platform. If they don’t find a buyer for a price they like, Roofstock will buy back shares at a 7.5 percent discount to market value.”

A technological breakthrough could solve the cannabis industry’s endemic proprietary and supply chain issues: “TruTrace Technologies has developed StrainSecure, the industry’s first integrated blockchain platform to register and track intellectual property in the cannabis industry. This advanced blockchain technology establishes a single-source, accurate, validated and permanent account for any cannabis strain—all the way to the market. Even better: The digital platform also streamlines the administrative process, lowering the costs related to genetic and mandatory quality-control testing for legal cannabis. … Producers, patients and consumers can not only verify and test their products but also rate them and share reviews. These details are secured on the StrainSecure blockchain and cannot be altered by any one party.”

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COMMERCIAL REAL ESTATE

Thanks to its courtship—and jilting—by Amazon, Long Island City has had its best real estate year on record: “Long Island City is enjoying a growth spell that predated its dalliance with Amazon, one that shows no signs of dissipating. Long Island City leased more commercial property space in the first half of 2019 than it has in any year since major commercial real estate firm Cushman & Wakefield started recording data. More than half of that space was leased in the second quarter — after Amazon pulled out. … [T]he area will lease about 1.5 million square feet this year, or about the same amount of space Amazon would have occupied.

“SquareFoot, a commercial real estate firm that caters to small- and medium-sized businesses, has seen sustained interest in Long Island City from its clients, as well. After a ‘clear spike’ in requests for property information around the Amazon news, interest in Long Island City has still more than doubled year over year, SquareFoot CEO Jonathan Wasserstrum told Recode … ‘One of the nice things for Long Island City is that whatever makes it attractive to Amazon should make it attractive to anyone else,’ Wasserstrum said. ‘It allows you to outsource some of the decision-making throughout the real estate process to Amazon. Amazon clearly wasn’t going into this blind. It did its research.’”

FAILURE

MoviePass, the embattled movie-subscription service that you probably thought was already out of business has announced that it’s shutting down for “several weeks” during the summer movie season: “The service has been rocked by poor customer service, extremely limited showtime and movie availability and the onslaught of exhibitor-driven subscription services like AMC’s Stubs A-List, which recently passed the 750,000 subscriber mark. The same issues helped spell the demise of MoviePass’ rival, Sinema, who ceased operations in April even after adopting a more financially stable business model. However, that company found it could not compete with new subscription services launched by the theater circuits that would interact with existing theater loyalty programs and, in some cases, would also feature concessions discounts. …

“‘There’s never a good time to have to do this,’ said MoviePass Inc. CEO Mitch Lowe. ‘But to complete the improved version of our app, one that we believe will provide a much better experience for our subscribers, it has to be done.’”

OBITUARY 

Ben Barenholtz, who passed away recently, is the pioneer of the midnight movie showing which helped otherwise unknown films reach cult status: “Mr. Barenholtz had been running the Elgin Theater in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan as a repertory and art-film house for two years when he decided, in late 1970, to show ‘El Topo,’ the Chilean director Alejandro Jodorowsky’s surreal, bloody Spanish-language western, at midnight on Sundays through Thursdays and 1 a.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. … 

“[Something about ‘El Topo’] suggested to Mr. Barenholtz that it would appeal to a young audience eager for a new type of late-night movie experience in a run-down theater where marijuana smoking was condoned. He was right. With little advertising but strong word of mouth, crowds soon filled the Elgin’s nearly 600 seats during the film’s exclusive run. … By 1971, other theaters had begun to copy Mr. Barenholtz’s formula—most notably the Waverly, in Greenwich Village, which showed George Romero’s ‘Night of the Living Dead.’”

And that’s what’s ahead.

Please send comments and suggestions to mattg@oxfordcenter.com and lfeldman@oxfordcenter.com