Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ritz Reemerges As Diverse CE Retailer

The company formerly known as Ritz Camera has emerged from bankruptcy with a new focus, moving beyond merely cameras into other CE categories, such as flat-panel TVs and smartphones. The company is now known as Ritz Camera & Image, and operates 300 stores, including new ones in Atlanta, Boston, Jacksonville, San Diego and Tampa. . . more

Fitness Centers: Good News For Retail

Fitness purveyors are emerging as highly viable shopping center destination tenants, according to locally based Levin Management Corp.

Despite the challenging economy, the fitness industry reports healthy performance, according to the International Health, Racquet & Sportsclub Association. “With so much unpredictability and stress, people are focusing on what they can control and what makes them feel better--with health and wellness at the forefront,” says Ken Carrier, an industry veteran and owner of No Body Denied, a moderately-priced, star-up fitness center opening in December at Levin-leased Echo Plaza in Springfield. . . . more

Conspirator in TJX data breach pleads guilty

The man accused of conspiracy in the hacking attacks on payment systems supporting companies such as retailers TJMaxx, Hannaford Brothers, and 7-Eleven pleaded guilty Tuesday in U.S. District Court in Boston.

Federal prosecutors said Albert Gonzalez, 28, of Miami, allegedly controlled servers that gained access to the targeted corporate networks and then gave information to hackers who used malware to launch cyber attacks. He pleaded guilty to two counts of conspiracy. . . more

Retailers shore up holiday profits on thin inventories

Monday’s news that holiday spending rose 3.6% over last year has been followed by more positive tidings -- but more for retailers than their customers.

According to a Tuesday report by the Associated Press, retail profits will get a boost from inventories so low that merchants have had to restock shelves, a rare move this soon after Christmas.

While that’s good news for retail bottom lines, it means slim pickings for shoppers hoping for after-Christmas clearance sales.. . . more

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

This holiday season, Web sales are retailers' biggest gift

Consumers spent a little more than anticipated during the holiday season, according to a report out on Monday, and a significant e-tail threshold may have been crossed on Christmas Day at Amazon, the online bookseller.

For the first time ever, online sales of e-books on Christmas Day exceeded sales of physical books at Amazon, the company said on Monday.. . . more

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Six Ways Retailers Will Trick You to Spend More This Holiday

Chances are your wife doesn't need a matching pair of slippers to go with the pajama set you bought her this holiday.

But if you spend $5 more, you get free shipping on your order. So it would be silly not to buy them -- right?

As the crucial holiday shopping season progresses, retailers are desperate to make sure the few dollars consumers part with this month are spent at their stores.. . . more

Recovery Not As Strong As Previously Thought

The economy grew at a 2.2 percent pace in the third quarter, as the recovery got off to a weaker start than previously thought. However, all signs suggest the economy will end the year on stronger footing.

The Commerce Department's new reading on gross domestic product for the July-to-September quarter was slower than the 2.8 percent growth rate estimated just a month ago. Economists were predicting that figure wouldn't be revised in the government's final estimate on third-quarter GDP.. . . more

Hoping for green holiday, Macy's refashions itself

Wrapped in the music, lights and relentlessly red decor of Christmas at Macy's, Kathleen Kwiatkowski opened her wallet with a little pull from holidays past.

Like millions of other Americans, Kwiatkowski says she shops at the department store for its selection, ample coupons and easy return policy. But in part it's simply tradition.. . . more

Jewelry shows glints of life

Spending rises 31 percent among more affluent shoppers

As retailers struggle to get consumers to spend beyond what they need, affluent consumers are giving a troubled sector — jewelry — a ray of hope.

Average jewelry spending by shoppers with minimum household incomes of $100,000 jumped 31 percent, to $4,813, in the third quarter from a year earlier, compared against declines of more than 30 percent each for clothing and for fashion accessories including shoes and handbags. . . . more

Farmington, ME Fashion Bug closing in January

The Fashion Bug store in the Hannaford shopping plaza on Wilton Road will be closing in late January, a company spokesman confirmed on Monday.

The signs plastering the large windows advertise drastic cuts in prices.

No further information from the company was available other than the Farmington store is among those to be closed in January due to declining sales. There are seven Fashion Bugs in Maine, including stores in Waterville and Augusta. The Farmington store is the only one closing, officials said. . . . more

All The Sad Stores And Shops

Don't expect big sales to emerge from the 2009 holidays.

Though Black Friday sales were encouraging to some investment advisers, the holiday season doesn't look like it will deliver lots of presents to retailers. Folks did turn out to shop, but they spent less than usual.

One hundred ninety-five million people went to stores and Web sites the weekend after Thanksgiving, up from 172 million shoppers last year, says the National Retail Federation. Spending per person dropped $29.26, to $343.31.. . . more

Best Buy Got on Track in the Third Quarter

When it announced its third quarter sales, Best Buy (BBY) share prices fell off yearlong highs because management acknowledged that an intense competitive environment would pressure its margins in the fourth quarter.

From an investment perspective that might make sense, but from an operational perspective, Best Buy seems to be doing just the right thing.. . . more

Monday, December 21, 2009

Retailers Extend Their Holiday Hours to Lure Shoppers

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., Target Corp. and Toys ‘R’ Us Inc. are keeping their doors open longer this year to entice last-minute holiday shoppers.

Many stores typically stay open later during the holiday season. This year, as consumer spending still lags behind the economic recovery, it’s happening with increasing frequency, . . . more

Moody's Lowers Supervalu Debt to Negative

Moody's Investor Service here said yesterday it is lowering the rating outlooks for the debt of Supervalu and its subsidiaries to negative from stable.

Moody's said the change reflects the possible disruptions to operations over the short term as Supervalu carries out its strategic initiatives “during a very challenging operating environment, [which] could lead to further margin compression or disruptions to top line that could negatively impact debt coverage metrics and prospects for further debt reduction.” The negative outlook also considers that the cushion under Supervalu’s covenants could become tighter due to those pressures, Moody’s added. . . . more

Commercial real estate on shaky foundation

Optimism about a national economic recovery, fueled by rising stock prices and an improved residential real estate market, is tempered by the widespread belief that a raft of commercial real estate loan defaults is just around the corner.

Fears of a commercial real estate mortgage meltdown are bolstered by persistent unemployment, which has led to office and retail vacancies, rising commercial loan default rates and hundreds of bank failures. . . . more

Walgreen 1Q profit rises 20 percent on drug sales

Drugstore operator Walgreen Co. said Monday its fiscal first-quarter profit jumped 20 percent, mainly on higher prescription drug sales and from flu shots, topping Wall Street forecasts.

The company earned $489 million, or 49 cents per share, up from $408 million, or 41 cents per share, a year prior. Revenue rose 9.5 percent to $16.36 billion from $14.95 billion. The fiscal 2010 first quarter ended in November and included 3 cents per share in restructuring costs.. . . more

Zale cancels some orders with suppliers

Zale Corp. has cancelled some orders with suppliers, the Wall Street Journal reported.

However, CFO Matt Appel told the publication that the jeweler has cash on hand to pay suppliers.

"Barring something catastrophic, we will pay our bills," he said.. . . more

Last-Minute Shopping May Counter Snow; Sales Forecast Unchanged

Last-minute shopping in the days leading up to Christmas may make up for lost weekend sales on the U.S. East Coast after record snowfalls shut stores early and kept shoppers at home, the National Retail Federation said.

The weather wasn’t enough to prompt the trade group to revise its forecast for a 1 percent drop in holiday sales. Some retailers may extend promotions into Monday and Tuesday to attract shoppers they had hoped to get during the last weekend before Christmas, she said yesterday. . . . more

A turnaround for Toys 'R' Us

Former Target exec has brought Toys 'R' Us back from the brink and helped it get its sparkle back.

Long Christmas trees twinkled in windows, the chief of Toys "R" Us threw his company's weight behind an odd bet.
It was early summer, and Gerald Storch had a fake hamster on his desk. His buyers, the executives who study and order merchandise, were predicting it would be a holiday hit. Storch laughed as the rodent scurried around and plopped off a table, then he turned serious: "How big can we make it?". . . more

Friday, December 18, 2009

Rite Aid Gets Rent Relief, Expands Slowly

Rite Aid Corp. has received rent relief in 20% of the stores for which it asks help, and will close 134 stores this year, executives said at the company’s third quarter conference call.

The company is reviewing about 200 stores with leases set to expire in the next three years and 500 are underperforming, said Frank Vitrano, executive VP and CFO. Working with both an in-house staff and an outside firm, Rite-Aid is seeking rent relief to improve profitability. . . . more

Best Buy Sees US Consumer Coming Back


Rising sales mean the US consumer is coming back, and expansion is needed in Europe, even as Canada and China lag, Best Buy Co. executives said at the company’s third quarter conference call.

The company will open its first big box stores in the United Kingdom next year, part of an expansion that includes 17 Wireless World format stores which are showing “encouraging” results, the company said. . . . more

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Polaroid property might sit for years

Site’s new owner faces tough hurdles

There are so many obstacles to developing the 120 acres in Waltham formerly owned by the Polaroid Corp. that one real estate expert said the property on Route 128 could sit idle for 10 years.

In addition to facing a weak commercial real estate market, the new owners also have to deal with legal issues that the city says have to be resolved by Dec. 28, and a still-unfinished agreement with the city that has been years in the making.. . . more

7-Eleven acquires White Hen chain

Convenience store chain 7-Eleven has acquired New England Pantry, the firm that runs 58 White Hen Pantry convenience stores in greater Boston, the company said on Wednesday. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed.

The acquisition will broaden 7-Eleven’s reach in greater Boston, bringing the number of local 7-Eleven outlets and franchises to over 170. 7-Eleven purchased the business from affiliates of Sanders Morris Group Inc., a wealth management firm in Houston, Texas.. . . more

Pier 1 returns to profit, will close fewer stores

Home decor retailer Pier 1 Imports Inc. returned to a profit in the third quarter, propelled by increased sales, better traffic and fewer markdowns.

The Fort Worth-based company also said it will close fewer stores than expected after working out agreements with some landlords to lower rents. . . . more

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Banks to Spend 2010 Coping with Commercial Mortgage Maturities

As billions of dollars in commercial debt comes due over the next two years, with many loans originated from 2005 to 2008 underwater, the need for capital will skyrocket. Of the $3.5 trillion in commercial mortgage debt outstanding, more than $1.1 trillion is needed to service that debt. That’s according to a new 2010 forecast from New York-based financial analyst Keefe, Bruyette & Woods (KBW).

The scarcity of cash will be most acutely felt in the banking sector, which holds some 80% of the approximately $500 billion in commercial debt that will mature through 2011. . . . more

Pricible.com Announces the Launch of the First Grocery Price Comparison Website in the U.S

Pricible.com will be the first grocery price comparison site launched in the U.S. to compare all products in a grocery store, not just the weekly specials. It offers a unique perspective on grocery store prices, in addition to saving consumers’ time on unnecessary trips and the grocery store rush, clipping grocery coupons and standing in long checkout lines by giving them the information they need before leaving home.

Pricible.com was started by a dual-career couple in Fuquay-Varina, NC with two small children. They have a busy life with work and the needs of growing children, and not enough time to compare grocery store prices and clip grocery coupons. They knew their friends and family had the same problem, and in this down economy, they also knew many other families needed help in saving money. The couple’s IT knowledge of directory services, data content, and database management led to a proprietary system of gathering, compiling and treatment of online grocery product data which is displayed in a user-friendly format on Pricible.com. . . . more

McDonald's to Offer Free Wireless Internet

McDonald's Corp. will soon start offering free wireless Internet access at its U.S. restaurants as part of the fast-food chain's transformation from its hamburger roots into a hang-out destination.

Starting in mid-January, McDonald's will lift a $2.95 fee that it had charged customers for two hours of wireless Internet access, available at about 11,000 of its 14,000 domestic locations, McDonald's USA Chief Information Officer David Grooms said in an interview.. . . more

Restaurant Recovery To Start Q3, 2010

The restaurant industry will not begin recovery until the second half of 2010, according to a new forecast from The NPD Group.

Traffic and sales declines will slow during the year's first half and will turn slightly positive starting in the third quarter, predicts NPD. "And it will take a year after that for the industry to return to where it was prior to the recession," says Bonnie Riggs, the research group's restaurant analyst and author of the report, "Restaurant Industry ... What to Expect When Economic Recovery Begins." . . . more

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

KeyPoints Re-Cap

Seasons Greetings. As we approach the end of an eventful year, we thought we’d review some of the observations, predictions, and pronouncements we’ve made in this publication in 2009.

In our January issue, Vice President of Research Bob Sheehan, in Remaking The Mall, noted: “Remake The Mall? I'm not sure you can...The Mall” as we know it is in survival mode... For all intents and purposes, traditional enclosed mall development is no longer feasible.”

In a two-part piece for our February and March issues, Re-Define and Re-Commit for Recovery, Sheehan and Marketing Manager Chris Cardoni advised retailers on how to survive the downturn: “While it seems as if the whole consumer world is falling apart, it really isn’t. People will always need to buy things, and there are many retailers who are buzzing along quite nicely, even in this economic environment. . . more

General Growth Properties could be up for sale

Chicago-based mall operator making strides to emerge from bankruptcy

One very big-ticket item has made its way to the top of some high-profile shopping lists this holiday season: the shopping mall itself.

Making strides to emerge from a mammoth bankruptcy, Chicago-based General Growth Properties may be in play, as competitors seek to acquire some or all of the nation's second-largest mall company.. . . more

Citi reorders REIT ratings heading into 2010

A Citigroup analyst who covers real estate investment trusts rejiggered his ratings on several individual names Monday and said the economic backdrop could support current elevated valuations for the sector over the next year.

"At the same time, there remain clear long-term risks to the recovery following record stimulus that some feel has simply shifted the private credit bubble to the public," Michael Bilerman wrote about the outlook for REITs in 2010. . . . more

Holiday Shopping to Go Later Into Year

With just 11 days left before Christmas, 66 percent of consumers have yet to finish their holiday shopping, according to a new survey from American Express.

In fact, the latest American Express Spending and Saving Tracker shows that one in five consumers (21 percent) will still be shopping for gifts the week leading into Christmas, and 4 percent expect to shop on Christmas Eve. However, according to the survey, these consumers aren't necessarily procrastinating: Some are time-strapped (18 percent), while many are practicing savvy shopping tactics, specifically:. . . more

Westfarms' Owners Agree To $34 Million Settlement With Blue Back

The owners of Blue Back Square are getting $34 million in compensation for lost revenue, increased financing costs and other losses as a result of the yearlong construction delay caused by a blizzard of 11 anti-Blue Back lawsuits bankrolled by a retail competitor.

Taubman Centers Inc., the corporate parent of Westfarms mall and the mall's majority owner, agreed in an out-of-court settlement last week to pay its $26.8 million share of the money by today.. . . more

Best Buy third-quarter profit rises; predicts slimmer margins

Best Buy Co. said today its third-quarter profit more than quadrupled. But shares fell 4 percent in premarket trading as the company predicted profit margins will be squeezed as shoppers veer toward cheaper laptops and TVs.

Still, the nation's largest electronics retailer raised its earnings and revenue guidance for the year and said traffic and average ticket improved from a year ago.

Sales of notebook computers, flat panel televisions, mobile phones and appliances were strong, while sales of games, movies and music were weaker. . . . more

Fall River, New Bedford rank high in retail study

Massachusetts’ long-distressed southeastern cities of Fall River and New Bedford are part of an economic cluster expected to see above-average retail growth through 2010, according to market-research concern Pitney Bowes Business Insight.

Fall River and New Bedford, along with Providence, R.I., together ranked ninth nationally in forecasted retail growth over the next year, according to Pitney Bowes research.. . . more

Holiday returns can carry hefty price

Before unpacking that new netbook computer or digital camera this holiday season, make sure you really want to keep it. There could be a price to pay just for opening the box.

A state survey set to be released today shows that a growing number of retailers are imposing fees on returned goods, especially electronics, even if the product is not damaged. The charges, known as restocking fees, range from 10 to 60 percent, depending on the merchant.. . . more

Friday, December 11, 2009

November retail sales up 2.2 percent YoY

The U.S. Census Bureau announced today that advance estimates of U.S. retail and food services sales for November, adjusted for seasonal variation and holiday and trading-day differences, but not for price changes, were $352.1 billion, an increase of 1.3 percent (±0.5%) from the previous month and 1.9 percent (±0.5%) above November 2008. Total sales for the September through November 2009 period were down 2.1 percent (±0.3%) from the same period a year ago. The September to October 2009 percent change was revised from +1.4 percent (±0.5%) to +1.1 percent (±0.2%).

Retail trade sales were up 1.4 percent (±0.5%) from October 2009 and 2.2 percent (±0.5%) above last year. Building material and garden equipment and supplies dealers were down 9.3 percent (±1.8%) from November 2008, but gasoline stations sales were up 8.9% (±1.3%) from last year. . . . more

Distressed Asset Update

Two years ago, almost everyone was discussing, and looking forward to, a tsunami of distressed assets which would be coming to market based upon the sub-prime mortgage crisis and the stresses it would exert on the credit markets in general. In September of 2008, when Lehman failed and Wall Street as we knew it was structurally transformed from an investment banking platform to one of bank holding companies, the “almost everyone” mentioned above was changed to “everyone”. But the tsunami has not arrived, not even close.

The fact that only a few distressed assets have been put in play is not because they aren’t out there. The pipeline is chock full of them.. . . more

Planning Board Passes Plan For Manchester, NH Walmart

Some Residents Say They're Opposed Because Of Traffic Concerns

The Manchester Planning Board approved a proposal to build a new Walmart Super Center on Gold Street.

It was a 5 to 4 vote. The 183,000-square
-foot store is welcomed by some residents who want a boost in business and jobs but not welcomed by many residents on or near Gold Street. They are concerned about traffic near their residences.. . . more

DC Retail Market: What Recession?

The DC-area real estate retail sector did not suffer too badly from the recession this year, a new report by Delta Associates finds. There are a number of reasons why the sector rode out the economic downturn relatively well, most of them long standing structural issues.

For starters, retail in the District has been chronically underserved and under-stored, Delta Associates' CEO Greg Leisch tells GlobeSt.com. The District has 8.5 square feet of retail per capita, compared to the national average of 23.4 square feet. "The area has chronically low vacancy rates--we had more give in the retail market than in other locations like Houston where the vacancy rate was already high when the recession began." In DC, the vacancy rate for retail was 2%-to-3% when the recession began, he says. Another factor has been the higher incomes in the DC-area, compared to other parts of the country, according to Leisch. . . . more

Costco To Boost Expansion in 2011

Expect Costco Wholesale Corp. to ramp up expansion in 2011 and beyond, the company said at its first quarter 2010 conference call.

The company plans to open 16 to 18 new stores this year, 13 to 14 of them in the United States. That will grow to the low-20s in 2011 or 2012, and the high-20s beyond that, said Richard A. Galanti, executive VP and CFO. The company recently opened a smaller unit in Manhattan, opening a dim possibility of additional smaller stores. . . . more

Thursday, December 10, 2009

The retail outlook for 2010

Last December, STORES predicted that economic pressures “should ease” by the second quarter of 2009, that sales of private-label merchandise would slip and that the electronic wallet would finally become a reality. Oops.

On the other hand, it correctly predicted that no one would be spared from credit woes in 2009, that retail sustainability projects would be more closely scrutinized by Wall Street and shareholders, and that the “do more with less” mantra would emerge as the leading IT strategy. . . . more

Great New Hampshire prepares two new brands for growth push

Despite a business environment that’s led many restaurateurs to gripe and others to close their doors, the team at Great New Hampshire Restaurants is upbeat and gearing for growth.

The 25-year-old company, based in Bedford, NH, now operates seven T-Bones and Cactus Jack's restaurants and plans to unveil two new concepts as soon as suitable sites are found, said Tom Boucher, owner and chief executive.. . . more

Subway has big expansion plans for Massachusetts

The Subway restaurant chain, which specializes in submarine sandwiches, said it plans to increase its presence in Eastern and Central Massachusetts by roughly 130 stores over the next five years.

There are currently 175 Subway restaurants in the market, said a company known for TV ads starring Jared, a formerly out-sized chap who managed to slenderize his bulky racing lines on a diet that he says relied heavily on Subway fare.. . . more

Sears Holdings Corp. struggles to compete and lacks concise strategy

In the midst of the holiday shopping season during a recession, Sears Holdings Corp. is plodding along compared with other retailers.

Analysts say more cost-cutting looms if Sears fails to solidify a competitive strategy.

William Dreher of Deutsche Bank AG said Sears has made progress with Internet sales, but “unless they start selling thousands of stores, they’re going to have to figure out something to do with them. The survival and success of their stores cannot be accomplished through the Internet alone.”. . . more

General Growth Turnaround Faces Dillard's Objection

Bankrupt General Growth Properties Inc., the second-largest U.S. mall owner, doesn't protect the rights of its tenants in a plan to reorganize part of its debt, Dillard's Inc. said.

Dillard's, a Little Rock, Arkansas-based fashion retailer, objected to General Growth's Chapter 11 reorganization plan in court documents filed today in Manhattan. Dillard's said the plan impairs its rights under leases at 36 malls where it is a tenant, and affects its claims at a total of 51 properties.. . . more

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Industry Getting Back on Track

ICSC’s meeting next week with Treasury Secretary Timothy Geitner will describe an industry that is improving but still faces uncertainties, said association and industry executives at the 2009 New York National Conference and Deal Making, being held through tomorrow at the New York Hilton & Towers/New York Sheraton & Towers.

The industry meeting with Geithner, scheduled for Dec. 15, will discuss an industry that executives have noted is in a far different and better place than a year ago--but still requires encouragement regarding financing, ICSC President Michael P. Kercheval noted in an industry update. . . . more

BRA endorses higher taxes for Downtown Crossing landlords

The head of the Boston Redevelopment Authority called Tuesday to designate Downtown Crossing as Boston’s first Business Improvement District — a move that would place an extra tax on property owners in the area to fund improvements and added services.

Speaking alongside Mayor Thomas M. Menino at a Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce event, John Palmieri said the extra funding could help continue growth that has included projects by Emerson College and Suffolk University in the neighborhood.. . . more

Talbots to restructure, cut debt, and merge with Conn. company

Troubled retailer Talbots Inc. yesterday disclosed a major financial restructuring that will cut its heavy debt load and buy out its largest shareholder, a move that puts the Hingham women’s clothing chain on firmer financial ground.

The retailer, which also posted third-quarter profit yesterday after five consecutive quarterly losses, said it will merge with a Connecticut company made up of Wall Street heavy hitters that will acquire 60 to 69 percent of Talbots stock for between $300 million and $350 million. The company, BPW Acquisition Corp., also will use the money to buy out the 54 percent stake in Talbots held by Aeon USA Inc., a unit of Japan’s largest supermarket retailer Aeon Co.. . . more

Retail Customer Service Stinks

With holiday shopping in full swing, consumers may find that retailers’ customer service leaves much to be desired, according to new research. The Retail Service Quality Index, to be released tomorrow (Tuesday) by consulting firm The SALT & Pepper Group, pegs service at only 48.2 out of 100.

The index measured 1,027 interactions in 73 different retail stores over a four-month period. The data gatherers measured 39 separate kinds of service, from the store greeting, merchandise returns or exchanges, and how associates interact to solve customer problems. . . . more

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Brigham’s restaurants in Hingham and Quincy survive latest round of closings

The independently-owned Brigham’s locations in Quincy and Hingham have become the last restaurants in the venerable chain on the South Shore as its corporate-owned restaurants melted away.

The Brigham’s restaurants that were purchased last year by Deal Metrics LLC, a Maryland investment firm, have been steadily closing in the past few weeks. Among the locations to disappear: two restaurants at the South Shore Plaza in Braintree, one at the Westgate Mall in Brockton and one at the Independence Mall in Kingston.. . . more

Simon To Acquire Prime Outlets for $2.3B

Simon Property Group has signed a definitive agreement to purchase Prime Outlets Acquisitions Co. and its affiliated entities from the Lightstone Group. The purchase is valued at $2.33 billion and will add more than 8 million square feet of leasable retail space to the locally-based company’s portfolio.

"Prime Outlets is an excellent opportunity for Simon as it represents a strong strategic fit for our existing Premium Outlet portfolio and enhances our leadership position in the outlet business,” says David Simon, chairman and CEO, in a statement. “Following the completion of this transaction our outlet portfolio will have 63 centers comprising approximately 25 million square feet.". . . more

Polaroid Development Plan Scrapped

A plan to turn the former Polaroid Corp. headquarters property in Waltham, MA into a 1.7 million-square-foot office and retail complex has been scrapped and the German bank that now owns the property is going back to the drawing board for new development ideas.

Robert C. Buckley, the lawyer who represents Helaba bank, told the Waltham City Council’s Ordinances and Rules Committee Monday night that the bank is looking at other uses for the 120-acre site off Route 128, but he said he did not know what the final outcome will be.. . . more

Citi, Wells Struggle to Emerge From TARP

The shadow of the Term Asset-Backed Relief Program seems heavy on Citigroup Inc. and Wells Fargo & Co., now that Bank of America Corp. has found a way to repay the American taxpayers and shed the restrictions of the government run program. However, the Federal Reserve and the Treasury are not making it as easy for these two banks to get out, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Bank of America was allowed to repay its $45 billion in federal aid and raised $19.29 billion by selling stock in order to do so. Citi and Wells argue that they should be entitled to similar terms, however the government has pulled back on the reins asking that Citigroup raise $20 billion in common stock to exit TARP, while Wells was told it needed billions as well, says the Journal.. . . more

Revere project gets $47m jump-start

Governor Deval Patrick’s administration said it will spend $47 million in federal stimulus money and state funds to jump-start the long-delayed revitalization of the Revere waterfront, where a developer is proposing to build a complex of condominiums, offices, and a hotel on 9 acres.

The public aid will finance a 1,900-space parking garage for the $500 million Waterfront Square project, a seven-building complex near Revere Beach. About one-third of the spaces will be used for the development, the remainder for commuters who use the Wonderland MBTA station.. . . more

A Barneys to grow in Brooklyn

Trendy upscale department store Barneys New York is planning to open its first-ever location in Brooklyn, according to sources close to the situation. The retailer is canvassing the market in the hope of opening a Barneys Co-Op in Cobble Hill, despite the still treacherous retail climate and the precarious condition of its Dubai-based owner, Istithmar World.

“We're cautiously optimistic compared with last year,” says Michael Celestino, executive vice president of store operations at Barneys.. . . more
Strength in online and catalog sales and easier year-ago comparisons helped luxury retailer Neiman Marcus Inc.’s November sales results.

Same-store sales fell 7.5 percent in November.

The Dallas-based luxury retailer said same-store sales from its Neiman Marcus, Bergdorf Goodman, Cusp, Last Call and Horchow stores posted a 12.7 percent decline in November. . . . more

Jo-Ann Stores: A Retail Category Walmart's Not Killing

There aren’t many retailers out there operating a business in which Walmart doesn’t control a huge chunk of market share, if not lead an entire category. The largest retailer in the world is the top seller of groceries in the country, and near or at the top in electronics, toys and clothing.

Walmart probably sells a lot of craft and fabric materials too, but if so, its business isn’t hurting Jo-Ann Stores (JAS). . . . more

U.S. jewelry retail closings about average in '09

How many U.S. specialty retail jewelers are going to close this year? IDEX Online Research frequently receives that question. The answer: not as many as you might think.

At the current pace, it appears that just above 700 U.S. specialty jewelry businesses will exit the market in 2009, based on new data from the Jewelers Board of Trade (JBT), the jewelry industry's credit bureau and keeper of the business census. . . . more

The Walking Co. files Chapter 11

Playing a game of chicken with some high-profile mall magnates, Santa Barbara-based shoe retailer The Walking Co. has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, citing untenable leases it signed during what company leaders called a “high water mark for retail space.”

The Walking Co., formerly known as Big Dogs, said the move came about because it couldn’t renegotiate rents for many of its mall-based stores during a tough retail environment. The company hopes to shed unprofitable stores and re-emerge from bankruptcy by early next year, the company said in a release.. . . more

Monday, December 7, 2009

Barnes & Noble delays Nook in-store debut

Bookseller Barnes & Noble Inc (BKS.N) has put off the in-store debut of its Nook electronic reader until early 2010, saying it was giving priority to fulfilling orders already received.

Barnes & Noble said in November that it would ship the newly launched Nook to its highest-volume stores on Dec. 7 to allow customers to buy an e-reader and take it home.. . . more

Amazon Says No Plans to Open Physical Stores

Amazon.com Inc , the world's largest online retailer, has no plans to open stores anywhere in the world, it said on Sunday, in response to a report it was planning to open high street shops in Britain.

A spokesman for the group said it had no plans to open physical stores after the Sunday Times reported the group was looking to cash in on the rising customer demand for so-called click and collect services, where customers buy goods online and pick them up from a shop.. . . more

Word of Mouth Influences Most Electronics, Apparel Purchases, According

Retailers will spend millions of dollars on advertising this holiday season, but many shoppers won’t commit to buying some gifts until hearing from people just like them that it’s worth it. According to a Retail Advertising and Marketing Association survey conducted by BIGresearch, word of mouth remains the biggest influence in people’s electronics (43.7%) and apparel (33.6%) purchases, though advertising inserts, articles and in-store promotions also sway buying decisions.

“Hearing what other people have to say about a product gives shoppers the satisfaction of knowing what they purchased is peer-reviewed and worth their money,” said Mike Gatti, Executive Director, RAMA. “Whether it is based on a conversation with a friend or a customer review on a website, people put a lot of weight in other shoppers’ opinions.” . . . more

Aeropostale income up 47% in Q3, plans 50 new stores in 2010

Aeropostale reported its net income for the third quarter increased 47% to a record $62.6 million, compared with $42.6 million in the same period last year.

Aeropostale said it plans to invest approximately $70 million in capital for fiscal 2010 to open approximately 25 Aeropostale stores, approximately 25-30 P.S. from Aeropostale stores, and approximately 40 store remodels. . . more

Dilemma at Saks as affluent pull back

Struggling with slumping sales for the past two years, luxury department store operator Saks Inc . is beefing up its less expensive offerings at the risk of diluting its brand.

But with even the most affluent shoppers keeping a tight grip on their spending this holiday season, is there really any other choice?. . . more

Friday, December 4, 2009

General Growth president says company eyeing mid-2010 bankruptcy exit

General Growth Properties Inc. President Thomas H. Nolan Jr. said he hopes to pull his debt-laden real estate firm out of bankruptcy as early as mid-2010, depending on the Chicago company’s ability to restructure its remaining $12 billion of debt.

In an interview with the Baltimore Business Journal, Nolan noted the company still has a long way to go to reach that point. But he believes the real estate investment trust is building momentum, and trust with its creditors, and that will help pull it out from its financial straits.. . . more

Nov. jobless rate falls to 10%, 11K job cuts

The unemployment rate unexpectedly fell to 10 percent in November as employers cut the smallest number of jobs since the recession began. The better-than-expected job figures are a rare note of encouraging news for the labor market.

Still, the respite may be temporary. Many economists expect the unemployment rate to climb into next year as the economy struggles to generate enough jobs for the 15.4 million people out of work.. . . more

Bloomingdale's CEO: The Secret No One's Talking About

With sales of more discretionary items such as accessories and jewelry picking up, Bloomingdale's CEO Michael Gould is hopeful that it will be a "very good December."

"Business has been very good," Gould told CNBC. "November was better than plan, and better than last year."

According to Gould, Bloomingdale's business began to pick up in September and has improved since then. . . . more

Holiday shopping bump can't boost retail sales

The nation's retailers posted a surprise sales decline for November after two consecutive months of gains, as a modestly positive start to holiday shopping wasn't strong enough to offset weak spending the rest of the month.

The 0.3 percent decrease, according to one measure, is especially worrisome because it comes on top of a freefall last November as spooked shoppers went into a defensive crouch after the financial meltdown. Analyst had expected a strong gain. . . . more

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Rite Aid reports fall in same-store sales

Rite Aid Corp. said Thursday that its November sales at stores open at least one year fell 0.8%. Analysts, on average, had expected same-store sales to rise 1.8%, according to Thomson Reuters. Total sales for the five weeks ended Nov. 28 fell 2.1% to $2.43 billion.

Source: MarketWatch

The TJX Companies, Inc. Reports Strong November 2009 Sales

The TJX Companies, Inc. today reported November 2009 sales results. Sales for the four-week period ended November 28, 2009, were $1.8 billion, up 15% over the $1.6 billion achieved during the four-week period ended November 29, 2008. For the 43 weeks ended November 28, 2009, sales reached $16.2 billion, up 6% over the $15.3 billion achieved during the 43-week period last year. Consolidated comparable store sales increased 8% compared to last year for the four-week period ended November 28, 2009. For the 43-week, year-to-date period, consolidated comparable store sales increased 5% compared to last year. . . . more

Luxury's turnaround? Maybe not quite just yet

Despite expectations that high-end shoppers are gradually coming back to stores and with retailers such as Macy's Inc. and Saks Inc. indicating some improvement, the latest data suggest that the battered sector may need to do more to prove this pickup in momentum can be sustained.

Sales in the luxury sector declined 7.3% in November, their first drop since August after gains in September and October, according to MasterCard Advisors SpendingPulse, which estimates U.S. retail sales across all payment forms including cash and check. The figure may have been distorted by the warmer start to the winter season in areas such as the Northeast, tamping down demand for heavier-weight apparel, MasterCard said. . . . more

Retail sales up in November

U.S. retail sales may have risen for the third straight month in November as purchases during the Black Friday weekend propped up holiday sales, a research firm said.

November sales may have advanced 2.4 percent, according to analysts’ estimates compiled by Retail Metrics Inc. That compares with a slump of 7.3 percent last year, the Swampscott, Massachusetts-based firm said. . . . more

Is Wal-Mart recovery-proof?

Throughout the recession, wealthier households "traded down" and started to shop at Wal-Mart for the first time. As a result, the world's largest retailer saw its market share in general merchandise rise as the economy went south.

Wal-Mart's stock jumped 20% in 2008, but this year its shares are down about 8%, as investors anticipate a recovery that could get shoppers -- especially the company's new upscale clientele -- thinking about more than everyday low prices. . . . more

Waltham panel to look at Polaroid plan again

A City Council committee meeting on Monday could shed some light on what's next for the former Polaroid property. Representatives from Helaba, the German bank that purchased the property for $42.5 million at an auction in October, are expected to appear before the City Council's Ordinances and Rules Committee, said Chairman and Ward 2 Councilor Ed Tarallo.
That committee for more than a year has reviewed a special permit application for a 1.7 million square foot office and retail project that been planned for the Main Street site.. . . more

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

GGP Revises, Files Reorganization Plan

General Growth Properties Inc. filed its reorganization plan with the bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York. The plan accounts for 92 properties, including regional shopping malls, office properties and community centers, which account for $9.7 billion of secured mortgage loans.

“We are extremely pleased to take this important step of filing the plan of reorganization for these debtors,” says Thomas Nolan, president and COO of GGP, in a statement. “Our successful completion of agreements in principal with additional mortgage lenders shows our continued progress. We will continue to work with our other secured mortgage lenders and are hopeful that we will reach additional consensual agreements quickly.”. . . more

Look Who's Stalking Wal-Mart

At a Target store, the visual sizzle usually comes from the photos of all the fabulous-looking people wearing fabulous clothes and doing fabulous things. Of late, though, there's an entirely new vibe—supersize signs screaming dirt-cheap prices. Past the cashiers is something else unmistakably novel: a sleek Euro-style mart carrying fresh cuts of sirloin, cheery piles of fruit, and hormone-free dairy.

The lowest prices on the planet! Plus a grocery store. Wait. Doesn't that sound an awful lot like Wal-Mart? . . . more

J.C. Penney to bring Spain's Mango chain to stores with new partnership

J.C. Penney Co. is partnering with a second European retailer, Barcelona-based Mango, to create shops inside its stores similar to its successful venture with Paris-based Sephora.

The Plano-based retailer said Tuesday it has an agreement with Mango to become its exclusive U.S. department store retailer, opening 75 MNG by Mango shops next fall with plans to expand to 600 stores by fall 2011. It will also sell Mango merchandise on jcp.com. . . . more