Newsletter: California Inc.: Retailers have fingers crossed Black Friday won’t be a turkey

Shoppers lined up outside a Best Buy store last Thanksgiving to get their pick of early Black Friday deals. Retailers are hoping for a repeat this year.
(Associated Press)

Welcome to California Inc., the weekly newsletter of the L.A. Times Business Section.

I’m Business columnist David Lazarus, and here’s a rundown of upcoming stories this week and the highlights of last week.

Respect is due: William Goldman, who wrote the screenplays for “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” and “All the President’s Men,” among many other works, died Friday at 87 at his home in Manhattan of complications from colon cancer and pneumonia. A giant in the entertainment industry.



Housing starts: The housing market comes into focus Tuesday as stats for new construction are released. In September, homebuilding dropped more than expected as construction activity slowed because of Hurricane Florence. Housing starts fell 5.3% to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.201 million units.

Jobless claims: Weekly jobless claims will come out Wednesday. In the week ended Nov. 10, initial claims for state unemployment benefits increased 2,000 to a seasonally adjusted 216,000. Data for the prior week was unrevised.

Black Friday: Thursday is Thanksgiving, which means some stores will be launching their Black Friday sales. Others will roll out on Friday, which is the official Black Friday. And Cyber Monday will be on Monday, although many Cyber Monday sales will commence on Saturday.

New flicks: This is a good week for movie fans. Opening in time for the long Thanksgiving weekend are “Creed II,” which is a Rocky movie but not; the animated “Ralph Breaks the Internet,” which looks really fun; and “Robin Hood,” a story that has been told, oh I don’t know, maybe a million times but apparently never gets old.


Monday’s Business section goes totally downward dog and looks at how yoga pants have stretched into a $48-billion business. In 2014, teenagers began to prefer leggings over jeans. Then people started wearing athletic clothing (or athleisure, but it’s mostly just yoga pants) to run errands. Now they’re wearing yoga pants to the office. U.S. imports of women’s elastic knit pants last year surpassed those of jeans for the first time.


Here are some of the other stories that ran in the Times Business section in recent days that we’re continuing to follow:


Job gains: The California economy kept chugging along last month, with employers adding 36,400 net positions, nearly 15% of all jobs created nationwide in October, according to the latest job data. The state’s unemployment rate held steady at 4.1% — the lowest rate in more than four decades.

Big deal: A former department store site in Beverly Hills slated for a $1.2-billion hotel and condominium complex was sold for an undisclosed price by Dalian Wanda Group to a development partnership that includes Beny Alagem, who co-owns the Beverly Hilton and Waldorf Astoria next door. The deal marks another pullout by Chinese investors in U.S. assets.

Tax breaks: Anschutz Entertainment Group — the owner of Staples Center, L.A. Live and the nearby JW Marriott — is seeking nearly $100 million in subsidies to build a $1.2-billion project to add hundreds of hotel rooms at L.A. Live and enlarge the Los Angeles Convention Center. An analysis done for the city concluded the assistance is required to make the project economically feasible.

Snap probe: The Securities and Exchange Commission and Department of Justice are investigating whether Snap Inc. misled investors in its initial public offering about the competition the parent of Snapchat faces from Facebook’s Instagram. The Santa Monica company has seen its shares crater since its March 2017 IPO following dismal earnings and user-growth reports, which has prompted a shareholder lawsuit.


Treasure trove: The Criterion Collection’s collection of classic movies will have its own streaming home after the Nov. 29 closure of FilmStruck by AT&T Inc.-owned WarnerMedia, which sparked an outcry. Criterion Collection, the distributor of movies such as Akira Kurosawa’s “Seven Samurai” and François Truffaut’s “The 400 Blows,” said it will launch a free-standing online service next spring.


And some recent stories from other publications that caught our eye:

The social network: The New York Times examines how Facebook tried to manage recent crises. Not well, apparently. “Facebook employed a Republican opposition-research firm to discredit activist protesters … It also tapped its business relationships, lobbying a Jewish civil rights group to cast some criticism of the company as anti-Semitic.”


Seeing red: You know those images of aircraft dropping red fire retardant on the wildfires? The Orange County Register points out that most of the stuff is produced at a factory in Rancho Cucamonga. “The retardant, dyed red to allow ground crews to track the area of the drops, is loaded onto flatbed trucks, either in circular bins or bulk bags ... Each bin and each bag weighs a ton. It’s then carted to airstrips in San Bernardino, Hemet and Palmdale for deployment on aircraft.”

Amazon effect: Having Amazon in your city is like a “prosperity bomb,” says the Wall Street Journal. “Amazon’s arrival is likely to strain any city’s mass transit. … The company paid for a fourth streetcar to ease downtown congestion as part of a deal with Seattle. But riders there have found that buses packed with Amazonians, who receive transit passes from the company, zip past stops during rush hour, unable to fit more passengers.”

Ones to watch: Bloomberg Businessweek serves up its list of 50 companies to watch in 2019. They’re ones “that face unusual challenges in the coming year or are poised to release products or services with blockbuster potential.” Take note, investors.

Now hear this: The New Yorker explores the seductive — and sometimes slippery — world of podcasts. “The creative and economic accomplishment of ‘Serial’ has spawned countless imitators, and many have shamelessly echoed its tropes: the wary, exploratory, methodical host; the true-crime incident, or other sensational event, which has been plucked from newspaper archives and transformed into a twisty narrative.”



If you’ve got a gamer in your home, as I do, you’ve probably asked yourself more than once how video games could be so fascinating. The guys behind L.A.-based Riot Games’ League of Legends, a blockbuster battle game, break down in this Wired video what some of the different “champions” are about. One has “a shotgun and a cool mustache.” Another “used to be incredibly evil until he found a better way.” Ah, now I get it!

For the latest money news, go to Mad props to Laurence Darmiento for helping put this thing together.

Until next time, I’ll see you in the Business section.