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ART E-COMMERCE IS BOOMING: The high-end art market has seen all-time record sales in recent years. A growing number of younger buyers are looking for ways to buy art more easily and at a wide range of prices. Online art sales are expected to more than double to $US3.76 billion annually in the next five years, according to a newly released report by British insurer Hiscox. Artsy, Artspace, and UGallery are among the competitors who have taken a digital-first approach to selling art, and then there’s Amazon which launched its own art marketplace last year, and eBay is said to be working on one as well.
Christie’s, the iconic art auction house, says its auction and exhibition sales are growing as fast as online. “The number of active parties is much greater [online] than the audience we’ve been serving,” says Christie’s CEO Steven Murphy. “We’re living in a moment where we’re having a cultural shift, world-wide, towards an interest in art, museum, and the experience of being in front of pictures.” Murphy acknowledges that Christie’s exclusive auctions are the sort of venues that have created an aura of unattainability for novice art buyers. Rather than turn his back on this fast-growing market, Murphy says Christie’s this year will begin a “real surge” in online art sales. (Wall Street Journal, Reuters)
Apple’s new head of retail, Angela Ahrendts is transitioning into her new role this week. Ahrendts is coming from Burberry where she was CEO.
UBER FACES HEADWINDS IN FRANCE: On-demand car and delivery service Uber is having a difficult time doing business in France. After a string of protests by registered taxi cab drivers and companies, the French government issued a report forbidding “digital hailing” of cars for cab rides. The city of Paris in particular has very strict regulations concerning how many cabs can be on the streets at any given time (three cabs for every 1,000 inhabitants, compared to New York City which has 13.5 for every 1,000 residents). The taxi companies want to maintain complete control over short-term rides in Paris which has put pressure on the government to regulate Uber and other car hailing services. (Monday Note)
ALIBABA INVESTS IN MAJOR VIDEO SITE: Alibaba is leading a $US1.22 billion investment in video site Youku Tudou, giving the e-commerce giant a 16.5% stake in the company. Youku Tudou is the largest video site in China, so the deal is akin to Amazon acquiring a stake in YouTube. Alibaba’s interest in Youku Tudou is driven by its need to attract new consumers to its e-commerce sites, such as Tmall and Taobao. Alibaba doesn’t own the merchandise it sells, rather it provides a platform where retailers and merchants can sell to millions of potential customers (mostly in China). This means that Alibaba relies on its massive user base to keep sellers happy, and so it has been turning to consumer Internet companies, such as video sites and social networks, through which it can acquire new users. (Reuters)
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YELP ACKNOWLEDGES BITCOIN: Yelp now allows merchants and restaurants to note on their business listings whether they accept Bitcoin or not. The new attribute is a hat tip to the new currency/payments platform, which some businesses have started to accept at their businesses. (Yelp)
EARNINGS TO WATCH TODAY: Both eBay and Twitter will release their quarterly earnings today after the market closes. For our e-commerce coverage, we’ll be focusing our analysis on eBay’s core marketplace business — as it’s facing rising competition from Amazon and other e-commerce companies. Management might also address Carl Icahn’s very public, now discontinued campaign to split eBay and PayPal into two separate companies. As for Twitter, we are looking for the company to show that user growth is reaccelerating, as it missed the mark last year on its goals for audience growth.
REMITTANCE WARS — MONEYGRAM, WESTERN UNION VS. WAL-MART, FACEBOOK: MoneyGram and Western Union, giants of the $US50 billion international remittances business, face challenges from new competitors, who say the international and domestic money transfer sector has bloated fees. We wrote about a new generation of peer-to-peer money transfer apps in our last report. Many of these, like Venmo, are popular with younger consumers. Facebook is seeking European regulatory approval for an electronic money licence that would allow it to participate in peer-to-peer international remittances, according to the Financial Times. Wal-Mart announced the launch of its own domestic money-transfer service, despite an existing contract with MoneyGram. Pam Patsley, CEO of Dallas-based MoneyGram, tells the Dallas Morning News that the Wal-Mart contract drives up to 9% of the company’s revenue. Elizabeth McQuerry, at payments consultancy Glenbrook, says retail banks should also offer competing online peer-to-peer money transfer services, and many already are.
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