Friday, December 17, 2010

Happy-Meal Toy Angst & MCD Share Price

The Evil Happy Meal Toy
With the hustle and bustle of Christmas making busy parents even busier, the odds are high that at least once during the holidays we will opt for a fast-food dinner. For many of us that means the purchase of a Happy Meal or two.

Yesterday, I read in the National Post that a Sacramento mom of two is suing McDonald's for using Happy-Meal toys to "lure" children into their restaurants.

The mom has teamed up with an organization that is connected with the American "food justice" movement called The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) to argue that McDonald's is using unfair marketing practices that violate California's consumer protection law.

This lawsuit is part of a bigger movement that's afoot in San Fransisco to ban restaurants from giving out toys with "low-nutrition" kids' meals. Back in November, when I first started following this story I asked my daughter, a McDonald's shareholder, what she thinks about the idea of banning the Happy Meal toy. She said, "Why are they punishing the kids?" Our discussion has since turned to whether or not the proposed ordinance, and now lawsuit, will influence the stock price and punish her as a shareholder, too.

Are MCD Shareholders Being Punished?
One of the first steps I took when introducing my daughter to the idea of "growing your money" was asking her to name her favourite companies. McDonald's, Tim Horton's and The Children's Place were at the top of her list. We took a look at each company's ten-year stock chart and decided, easily, that McDonald's had the best looking one, a steady climb upward, plus they pay a modest dividend.

MCD 10-Year Share Price - From MSN Money
But will that steady upward climb continue over the next ten years? My daughter and I have been watching the price of McDonald's shares, especially during those weeks when there has been bad press around kids and marketing. So far so good, though the share price has been tracking downward steadily since December 8th, falling from an all-time high of $80.94 USD to today's price of $76.79 USD. That's a bit of a worry as the main US market indexes have been tracking upward during this same period.

However, it's interesting to note that while McDonald's is getting flack from North American consumer groups like the CSPI, the company is expanding rapidly in China and announced on December 15th that the number of restaurants there will double by 2013. It has been fascinating watching this push and pull on the share price and talking about these influences with my daughter, who has decided (rightly, I think) to keep her shares despite the Happy-Meal toy issue.

McDonald's Commitment to the Well-Being of Their Customers
She has faith that the company will be able to adapt to our ever-evolving North American culture as well as to Chinese culture, plus she really enjoys being a shareholder. Our hope is that the company will continue to be profitable and pay her a decent dividend while she realizes some capital gains in the long run.

And healthy or not, she likes that Mom (from time to time) is an McDonald's consumer. As she told me this morning, "I'm still going to have a Happy Meal even if there's no toy." She does love those fries.

Copyright 2010. Laura Thomas. All Rights Reserved.
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1 comment:

  1. The fact that someone CAN do something and make money while doing it, does not make it right.
    The fact that our economy is based upon a "free market" and freedom of choice, does not mean that everything should be available.
    Let take junk food: it costs the tax payers billions of dollars in health care but "the people" are interested in the short term gains rather than the long term costs.
    Let's take durg use: "the government" has waged a "war on drugs" on behalf of "the people" for whatever reasons. One claimed reason is the long term health care costs, another is the indirect cost of crime. Amazingly the other side is the number of jobs created by the war and the corresponding direct cost to the taxpayers (police, prisons, etc).
    Still it is the choice of the people.
    We can discuss virtually every aspect of society using the same concepts.

    The fact that you have chosen to help teach your daughter some aspects of the financial world is fantastic. Attempting to justify the epidemic obesity of this country because your daughter is a shareholder in one of the largest junk food distibution companies in the world approaches insanity.
    "We the people" must take the time to take care of ourselves NOW and not rely upon the government to do so.
    We must take back our lives and re-learn responsibility thinking.
    Each time we make the choice to do something that we know is wrong, we must understand the consequences.
    The fact that millions of others are making wrong choices does not make them right.
    Ray Kroc gambled that the time would come when mothers would chose to not have time to prepare meals for their children and thus the need for fast food would increase.
    It turns out he was correct.
    That does not mean that we need to perpetuate the myth that it is better for both parents to be away working to support their families.

    Since it seems that so many people understand what the fast food companies are all about, let me ask:
    What business do you think McDonalds is in?
    If you answered fast food, you'd be partially correct.
    I have read that the corporation is the single largest land owner in the world and the largest toy distributor in the world as well.
    They also make money selling fast food.
    Now what is the correlation between toys and food?
    You be the judge.
    Children actually now believe that fries are a food group despite the fact that potatoes spike the blood sugar faster than anything else.
    Constantly spiking the blood sugar leads to insulin resistance which leads to diabetes.
    Amazing what one can learn if they apply themselves.
    Anyway, enjoy your meals and the consequences of your choices