Consumer Confidential: Pep Boys for sale, gas prices up, ads on bathroom mirrors
--Manny, Moe and Jack may be looking for a new friend. Pep Boys, the auto-parts powerhouse, is reportedly working with Bank of America to put the company up for sale. Pep Boys has seen its earnings improve and is reportedly hoping to attract a private-equity firm that may want an established retailer with a solid brand. Founded 90 years ago, Pep Boys has more than 600 stores nationwide offering service and parts. It earned $23 million in the year ended Jan. 30 after four straight years of losses. In December, Pep Boys said profit for the first nine months of the year climbed 36%. It's probably figuring that as the economy improves, people will pay more attention to their cars.
--Speaking of which, here's some news you didn't need: Gas prices are going up, and will likely only go even higher. Average pump prices topped $3.10 a gallon nationwide this week and have risen nearly 9% since Dec. 1. They're now at the highest level since October 2008. Worse, analysts expect average gas prices to range between $3.20 and $3.75 gallon by March and April, ahead of the summer driving season. AAA says the average in the Southland right now is $3.35.
--There's no shelter from marketers. An offshoot of Clear Channel Communications and a North Carolina company called Mirrus are experimenting with ads on bathroom mirrors in restrooms at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. They're installing 150 40-inch mirrors in select restrooms — men's and women's — over the next three months. The mirror technology displays video or still ads across the whole mirror when no one is standing in front of the sink. As soon as someone approaches to wash his hands or fix his hair, the ad shrinks into the corner. So much for a nice, peaceful time out from the busy world.
-- David Lazarus
Photo: Interested in a Pep Boy? Credit: Lawrence K. Ho / Los Angeles