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Spending Remains Low, Over Tight Credit

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A late Labour Day and delayed school openings offered some relief to merchants in September, helping to boost sales above Wall Street expectations. But spending still remains tepid as consumers focused on necessities amid job worries and tight credit.

Still, most stores posted sales declines — though smaller than in recent months — even as their figures are compared with last September when business plummeted as the financial meltdown ballooned.

As stores announced their results Thursday, J.C. Penney Co., Macy’s Inc., and teen retailer Wet Seal Inc. reported smaller-than-expected declines in sales at stores open at least a year. The measure is considered a key indicator of a retailer’s health.

Limited Brands Inc., which runs Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, and accessories chain The Buckle Inc. both posted increases for the month.

According to a preliminary tally by Thomson Reuters, nine stores beat Wall Street estimates, while four retailers’ results missed expecations.

Industry worries remain high heading into the holiday shopping season because shoppers, who were afraid to buy a year ago, are now grappling with rising job losses, reduced hours or unavailable credit. The unemployment rate is now 9.8 percent, up from around 7 percent last holiday season.

Credit also remains tight. A report released Wednesday by the Federal Reserve, shows that consumers reduced their borrowing for the seventh straight month in August as households cut spending and banks reduced credit card limits.

“Consumers remain under pressure on multiple fronts,” said Ken Perkins, president of retail research firm Retail Metrics. “I don’t think consumer spending is going to see a substantial uptick. Shoppers are concerned about rebuilding their balance sheets.”

In this climate, purveyors of fashion and nondiscretionary items continue to struggle with sluggish sales, while low-price stores benefit from shoppers switching to cheaper stores and brands.

Still, the tone was better in Thursday’s reports, as several merchants including J.C. Penney, American Eagle Outfitters Inc. and TJX Cos. raising their profit outlook based on their better-than-expected performance.

Macy’s had a 2.3 percent decline, less than the 4.6 percent drop that analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters had projected.

Penney had a 1.4 percent decline for September, lower than the 3.5 percent decline Wall Street estimated.

TJX enjoyed a 7 percent gain, surpassing the 4.1 percent estimate.

Gap Inc., dragged down by sluggish sales at its namesake stores and Banana Republic, posted a 1 percent sales decline, a bit worse than the 0.4 percent dip that analysts had expected. Its lower-price Old Navy division continued to shine, posting a 13 percent gain in sales at stores opened at least a year.

Limited Brands reported that sales in stores open at least a year rose 1 percent in September; that was better than the 2.4 percent slide that analysts had predicted.

Among teen retailers, American Eagle reported flat sales, beating estimates for a 4.1 percent decrease.

Buckle Inc. said its sales at stores open at least a year rose 5.1 percent, a bit lower than the 5.8 percent gain that Wall Street anticipated.

Wet Seal had a 4.5 percent decline, but analysts had expected a 7.8 percent drop for September.

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Army Chief Lauds NIMASA Boss Over Performance

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The Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt Gen Faruq Yahaya, has commended the Director General of Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency (NIMASA), Dr. Bashir Jamoh, over his efforts in transforming and promoting the transportation sector as president of the Chartered Institute of Transport Administration of Nigeria (CIoTA).
He gave the commendation recently, during the 4th National Transport Summit of the Institute in Abuja.
Yahaya, who was represented by Maj. Gen. E. Akerejola, commended the President and members of CIoTA for the many economic sectors it touched: from facilitating international trade, through supporting food security, to enabling industrial and infrastructural development.
In the same vein, the Nigerian Army and other security agencies pledged their support to the growth and improvement of the country’s transportation sector to international standards, expressing their willingness to collaborate with CIoTA to achieve this feat.
The COAS stated that the theme of the summit, “Transport Safety and Security Administration in Nigeria”, was also timely, saying it is “an important aspect of the Transportation sector which has often been overlooked by many, including the transport professionals and academia.
“Over the years, the transportation sector has witnessed series of issues and challenges ranging from poor infrastructure, poor regulations, limited specialised professional training institutions, lack of effective and efficient transport policies, intra industry squabbles among transport professionals, to unethical behaviours, poor working condition amongst others,” he said.
He reassured the Institute of the Nigerian Army’s resolve to support the transportation sector wherever necessary.
On his part, President CIoTA and DG of NIMASA, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, whose speech was read by Prof Samuel Odewumi, noted that the theme for this year’s summit is focused on safety and security of the transportation sector in Nigeria.
In his words: “We were able to achieve the Chartering of the Institute, Renewed Advocacy, Vigorous Membership Drive and Certification. This year’s summit focuses on Safety & Security on all modes of transportation, hence we must all work together as stakeholders and custodians of the transportation sector of Nigeria.
“Safety and security are paramount to achieving a robust and intermodal transport regime in Nigeria.
“CIoTA as the only statutory professional association in charge of the Transportation Industry in Nigeria, therefore, deserves to be accorded its place in nomination of members into relevant agencies and in consultations for policy formulation and implementation strategies. It is the right thing to do.
“As a Chartered Institute, our role is very huge; with great opportunities and challenges. Let’s focus on the job at hand”.

By: Nkpemenyie Mcdominic, Lagos

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Revenue Challenges: DMO Sues For Efficient Tax Administration

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As part of efforts to tackle revenue change in the country, the Debt Management Office (DMO) has called for the operation of an efficient and effective tax administration in Nigeria
Director-General of the agency, Ms Patience Oniha, who made the call in a statement made available to journalists, stressed on the need for Nigeria to operate such efficient tax administration system, that will tackle loopholes in revenue generation of the country.
According to her, a lot of loopholes are noticeable in the current tax system, which has given room for evasions and all sorts of sharp practices, causing hiccups in the public revenue management system.
She said revenue challenge remains one of the most critical policy issues of the Federal Government which is currently threatening the nation’s debt sustainability.
“The country needs to operate an efficient tax administration that would ensure greater compliance to remittances devoid of all forms of evasions in the system,” she said.
Recall that the current revenue problem is compounded by leakages such as an increase in oil theft and petrol subsidy, both of which have significantly reduced the revenue from oil sales that used to account for the bulk of government revenue.
Oniha noted that the outlook of both the local and international markets was becoming tighter with rising interest rate.
The DMO boss, therefore, stressed the need for the country to urgently moderate its new borrowings and ensure that public debt is sustained by accelerating its revenue base to shore up non-oil revenue and rationalising expenditure of the nation.

By: Corlins Walter

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214m Persons Subscribe To Telecoms In Nigeria

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Active telecommunication subscribers in Nigeria have now increased to 214.35 million as at October this year, according to data from the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC).
The latest NCC statistical records so far obtained shows that this is the highest number of recorded telecoms subscribers in the nation since the total number of subscribers peaked at 207.58 million in October 2020, some months before the SIM-NIN linkage.
The record has revealed that more subscribers were getting new SIMs in a bid to circumvent restrictions on SIMs that had not been linked with their National Identification Numbers, which was the major reason for the growth in 2022.
One of the major service providers in Nigeria, MTN, in its  third quarter release through the Chief Executive Officer, Karl Toriola, said the average daily gross connection was 48.1 per cent above the pre-directive level, partly driven by the cohort of subscribers who were initially restricted and opted to register new SIMs.
“Combined with increased usage from the existing base, these have supported an acceleration in the service revenue growth recovery and mitigated the impact of churn on the base”, he said.
Also looking at the predictions in the industry among the global industry’s stakeholders, Nigeria has a sizeable number of its population under the age of 18, which is indicating that its subscriber growth would remain strong for the foreseeable future as more young consumers crossed into adulthood and subscribed to mobile services.
Given the growing population, it is expected that 18 million new Nigerians will become unique telecoms subscribers even by 2025, and as Mobile connectivity is at the core of connectivity in Nigeria, with the majority of online services accessed through mobile channels in the nation.
Records have shown that mobile ecosystem also supported more than 3.2 million jobs (directly and indirectly) and made a substantial contribution to the funding of the public sector, with $16bn raised through taxes on the sector, and this will grow in coming years.
However, inspire of this growth, many will not have access to telecom service, just as the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy had said that about 31.6 million Nigerians live in areas without telecoms coverage.
The absence of such coverage, according to the ministry, had enabled criminal activities and insecurity in these unserved areas to thrive.

By: Corlins Walter

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