Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gift Card Warning!

As a pilot, my husband, Bob loves this warning sign. But it's not too funny if your car has ever been hit by a crop dusting airplane! This holiday season has a HUGE warning sign attached to it regarding what consumers chose as their #1 gift option for the last two years--GIFT CARDS!

With all the store closings, you really have to be cautious in buying gift cards because when a store files for bankruptcy or closes, it's up to the bankruptcy courts & too often, they don't have to honor the existing gift cards. Some closed stores are walking away from 20 million dollars in unhonored cards!

So, if you want the convenience and portability of a gift card, then stick to the prepaid credit cards (Visa is a common one that I use for my college kids) or a major store that ain't gonna ever close like . In fact, some families may appreciate a card to a major discount retailer because it will allow them to buy groceries and clothing without having you, the giver, go to the additional expense of what a prepaid Visa card costs.

Here's a list of stores that are cutting back, closing or have closed. If you have exisiting gift cards for these stores USE THEM NOW!

Ann Taylor closing 117 stores nationwide A company spokeswoman said the company hasn't revealed which stores will be shut. It will let the stores that will close this fiscal year know over the next month.

Circuit City – strong potential for closure

Linens n Things – all closing

Mervyns – all closing

Eddie Bauer to close more stores Eddie Bauer has already closed 27 shops in the first quarter and plans to close up to two more outlet stores by the end of the year.

Cache closing stores. Women's retailer Cache announced that it is closing 20 to 23 stores this year.

Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug, Catherines closing 150 stores nationwide.

Talbots, J. Jill closing stores. About a month ago, Talbots announced that it will be shuttering all 78 of its kids and men's stores. Now the company says it will close another 22 underperforming stores..

Gap Inc. closing 85 stores. In addition to its namesake chain, Gap also owns Old Navy and Banana Republic . The company said the closures - all planned for fiscal 2008 - will be weighted toward the Gap brand.

Foot Locker to close 140 stores.

Zales, Piercing Pagoda closing stores. The owner of Zales and Piercing Pagoda previously said it plans to close 82 stores by July 31. Today, it announced that it is closing another 23 underperforming stores.

Disney Store owner has the right to close 98 stores. The Walt Disney Company announced it acquired about 220 Disney Stores from subsidiaries of The Children's Place Retail Stores. The exact number of stores acquired will depend on negotiations with landlords. Those subsidiaries of Children's Place filed for bankruptcy protection in late March.

Home Depot store closings Nearly 7+ months after its chief executive said there were no plans to cut the number of its core retail stores, The Home Depot Inc. announced Thursday that it is shuttering 15 of them amid a slumping U.S.economy and housing market.

CompUSA (CLOSED) clarifies details on store closings. Any extended warranties purchased for products through CompUSA will be honored by a third-party provider, Assurant Solutions. Gift cards, rain checks, and rebates purchased prior to December 12 can be redeemed at any time duri ng the final sale. For those who have a gadget currently in for service with CompUSA, the repair will be completed and the gadget will be returned to owners. http:// www.

Macy's - 9 stores.

Hollywood Video/Movie Gallery - 160 stores as part of reorganization plan to exit bankruptcy.

Pacific Sunwear - 153 Demo stores.

Pep Boys - 33 stores.

Sprint Nextel - 125 retail locations.

J. C. Penney, Lowe's are scaling back.

Ethan Allen Interiors: The company announced plans to close 12 of 300+ stores in an effort to cut costs.

Wilsons The Leather Experts - 158 stores.

KB Toys posted a list of 356 stores that it is closing around the United States as part of its bankruptcy reorganization. To see the list of store closings, go to the KB Toys I nformation web site, and click on Press Information.

Dillard's to Close More Stores. Dillard's Inc. said it will continue to focus on closing underperforming stores, reducing expenses and improving its merchandise in 2008. At the company's annual shareholder meeting, CEO William Dillard II said the company will close another six underperforming stores this year

A Happy Shopper is a Cautious Shopper!

Ellie Kay

America's Family Financial Expert (R)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Dr. Laura features Ellie Kay's "Heroes at Home"

Today, Monday, November 17th, Dr. Laura is featuring my book, “Heroes at Home” on her radio show and will give away 30 copies of the book. So call in today and get your free copy! Her son is an American paratrooper and there’s nothing like having your baby go and jump out of a perfectly good airplane to make you want to reach out to other military families and help them!

That’s what I did last week on Veteran’s Day when I was on Midday Connection, a large national radio call in show. One of the callers was Kelly, a girl who had read “Heroes at Home” and was in the audience when I spoke at the Stryker Brigade in Alaska two years ago. It was a horrible, no good, very bad time for these families as their military members, who had been gone a year, came home and were sent back for another four months. Donald Rumsfeld was sent out to play “clean up” batter and the community of Fairbanks, Alaska brought me out to play “pinch hitter.” He spoke of “reasons” and I spoke of “reality.”
On the phone, Kelly thanked me and talked about what it was like for her and her husband during that time and how our “Heroes at Home” team made a big difference. I remember telling them not to vent on their spouses in Iraq, but to tell them three simple things, “I love you, I’m proud of you, I’ll be all right.” Then when they came home from Iraq, they could let him change diapers.
Later in the program, a female soldier called in who was also in the Stryker Brigade during that difficult time and shared the perspective of what it’s like from the other side of the ocean. She said she remembered hearing what our team did for the families during that trip and thanked me from a soldier’s perspective.
Finally, Bill called and gave us a retiree’s perspective. His voice sounded so feeble, but Anita, the host, and I quickly realized it sounded that way because he was emotional. His quietly told us that he (and others) had been honored at a special Veteran’s Day event at a local middle school. Anita had to drag his own story out of him because he was too humble to let us know that he was a tail gunner in B-17s in WWII. He said, “This program, what they did for us, was very meaningful.” Then he began to cry. It was a powerful moment. Somehow, I held it together enough to thank him for his service and Anita had to cut to a break because she, too, was feeling the power of a grateful heart.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Michelle Obama to Meet Ellie Kay & Discuss Military Families??

Sometimes I hear that I've been featured in the media and didn't know it until someone told me. This happened last month with The Today Show and The New York Times. Sure, in some cases like the NYT, I posed for photos in my office, but I still didn't know when it would run. But this past weekend this phenomenon bordered on the absurd when I was on The Happy Homewives Club radio show and the host asked me, "So what was it like meeting with Michelle Obama?" I was speechless.

It's one thing to be featured in the media and not know it, but it's quite another to have a meeting with the future First Lady and not know it! I blurted out, "I didn't meet with Michelle Obama! Why did you think I did?" She went on to say, "I got a press release from the DNC that said, Ellie Kay to meet with Michelle Obama and discuss military families."

So, I'm waiting for the call (and I may be waiting a while) but I think someone (besides me) may be confused. After writing the book Heroes at Home and speaking to military families around the world about their finances and lifestyle, I do have a few things to offer up to Mrs. Obama that I think can help her understand what military families are facing and how she can make a positive impact in their lives.

Veteran's Day is tomorrow and I'd encourage you to not only say "thank you" to a man or woman in uniform, but I'd say take it a step further--thank those military families for their contributions as well. After all, they are the Heroes at Home.

To all veterans--past and present--and to their families I say, "Thank you for your service."

Ellie Kay

America's Family Financial Expert (R)

Monday, November 3, 2008

Wanna Be on National TV With Me?

I love a challenge and am something of a risk taker. But I try to play it safe, too. Does that make sense? In other words, if I'm going to jump out of an airplane, I'm going to make sure the skydive center is certified, has a solid safety history and my instructor is experienced. In the happy pic, you can see where I'm in the sky with Jack Hammer, who had 3,000 jumps to his credit.

I'm also one to look at our present economic crisis as a challenge as well. I don't recommend risky endeavors like speculative investments or get rich quick techniques. However, I do think it's appropriate to take other "risks" to get out of debt--like downsizing a house, or going from a two car family to a one car family for a season. Even shopping at consignment stores or growing your own veggies can be an adventure to some.

Families are trying to recover from the mortgage and wall street meltdowns just in time to face the next big challenge--credit card debt. Stay posted to get the latest news on how to manage your credit card debt and here's a special announcement for those who are right in the middle of this challenge. It's an adventure you and I can take together!


Are you a young family struggling with consumer debt? If you are over $20K in credit card debt and need support, there is an opportunity to work with me as I help you negotiate with your lenders and work towards paying down your debt. A national television show may follow you every step of the way. Email us at if you are interested.

Just remember that no matter what the headlines read today, you can still take steps to face the challenge and succeed. But watch out for that first step, it's a doozie!

Ellie Kay
America's Family Financial Expert (R)