Friday, May 29, 2009

Blockbuster executive emphasizes brick-and-mortar stores

Blockbuster Inc. CEO Jim Keyes told shareholders Thursday that "there is life in the stores," and brick-and-mortar locations remain key to the company's growing multichannel pitch to customers.

While Wall Street penalizes Dallas-based Blockbuster for having stores and elevates chief competitor Netflix Inc. for not having them, Keyes isn't deterred.

"We still think stores are an important foundation for a seamless transition from the physical world to the digital world. Stores play a major role in that," he told shareholders at the company's annual meeting. . . . more

Costco Maintains Store Growth Plans

Costco Wholesale Corp. will maintain the pace of its expansion of both its traditional warehouses and newer Business Center formats, executive VP Richard Galanti said at the company’s third quarter conference call. Plans call for approximately 23 new warehouse openings in 2010, keeping expansion at about the same percentage rate as previous years. The 20 new openings this year include the company’s debut in Australia, with a unit opening in Melbourne in August. (Other openings for the fourth quarter include units in Japan, Korea and Taiwan.)

“We are seeing some opportunities out there, some at lower costs,” Galanti said. The company also is opening two to three new Business Centers annually.. . . more

Starbucks Pushing Landlords for 25% Reduction in Cafe Leases

May 29 (Bloomberg) -- Starbucks Corp., the world’s largest coffee-shop operator, is pushing some U.S. landlords for as much as a 25 percent reduction in lease rates, taking advantage of a declining real estate market to save on rent.

Faith Hope Consolo, chairman of New York-based Prudential Douglas Elliman’s retail leasing, marketing and sales division, is generally advising about a dozen landlords to work with Starbucks after they received letters seeking rent reductions of 20 percent to 25 percent. She hasn’t seen the correspondence. . . . more

Sears tests MyGofer prototype store in Joliet pans concept as 'a bad cross between and Dairy Barn'

What are Sears stores going to look like in the future? You might get a clue by visiting the retailer's latest incarnation: a drive-through general store.

MyGofer debuted in Joliet on May 9 with little fanfare. The Sears name is nowhere in sight. Neither is Kmart's. MyGofer wants no help or hindrances from Sears Holdings Corp.'s better-known brands. Shoppers can order online and pick up their purchases at a drive-through. They can also order at kiosks inside the showroom.. . . more

Ackman Misses Target

Board Slate Rejected

It looks like billionaire activist investor Bill Ackman's high-profile battle with Target missed its mark.

Target investors yesterday soundly defeated Ackman's efforts to get himself and other nominees elected to the board of the "cheap-chic" retailer, an embarrassing end to a fight that had devolved into a war of press releases and white papers. . . . more

Limited Brands to play it safe

Victoria's Secret is one of its chains, but Limited Brands intends to remain "buttoned up" while the recession takes its toll.

During yesterday's annual investor meeting, Leslie H. Wexner, chairman and chief executive officer of the retailer based in New Albany, said the company has benefited from a decision early in 2008 to act conservatively even though that year had started well.. . . more

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Economy isn't slowing Apple's building plans

Apple (AAPL) isn't letting the recession slow its retail ambitions.

The company said Wednesday that it plans to remodel 100 of its stores this year, to make more room for customer training and displayed products. Additionally, it will open 25 new stores, including a fourth location in New York City, and new ones in Paris, Italy and Germany.. . . more

Target, Ackman battle comes to vote in Wisconsin

Waukesha, Wisconsin (Reuters) - One of the season's highest-profile proxy battles is being put to a vote on Thursday as activist investor William Ackman and Target Corp (NYSE:TGT - News) face off at the retailer's annual meeting.

In an increasingly heated proxy contest, Ackman is seeking enough shareholder votes to win five seats on the retailer's board, while Target is running a slate of four incumbent directors.. . . more

Zale to speed up store closings, negotiate lower rents as losses widen

Valentine's Day was a glimmer, but the rest of the quarter produced no glow for Irving-based Zale Corp.

Zale said Wednesday that it plans to accelerate store closings and negotiate lower rents as it reported a weaker-than-expected fiscal third-quarter net loss on a 20 percent sales decline.

The drop-off in sales was due to fewer customers walking through the front door, while the average receipt was up slightly, the company said. . . . more

Zumiez tinkers with its product mix, plans fewer new stores

Still not seeing any letup in the recession, Zumiez CEO Rick Brooks said the Everett-based retailer has been working with its vendors to get more low-priced merchandise into stores for back-to-school shopping.

"This is the toughest economic environment I've ever worked in," Brooks said Wednesday during the company's annual shareholder meeting in Everett.

He said Zumiez has been opening fewer new stores to reflect its diminished sales outlook, though its overall strategy remains the same. The retailer sells clothing, equipment and shoes inspired by board sports.. . . more

McDonald's CEO says momentum continuing in 2009

Chief Executive Jim Skinner said McDonald's sales and earnings momentum is on track so far in 2009.

Skinner noted that 2008 was "a banner year" for the company with operating income up 17 percent and earnings per share rising 15 percent. He said those trends appear to be continuing into 2009.. . . more
Borders Group Inc. reported an 11.6% decline in revenue for the first quarter, but its chief executive told analysts on a call Wednesday that it is taking action to reverse the slide.

Ron Marshall said that the differences would be evident in stores soon with better book inventory and more urgency in generating sales. Borders also plans more creative promotions.. . . more

Toys R Us acquires high-end retailer FAO Schwarz

WAYNE, N.J. — Toys R Us Inc. announced early Thursday that it had bought troubled high-end retailer FAO Schwarz, which has struggled for years through bankruptcies amid tough competition from discount stores.

"We will work tirelessly to preserve the distinctiveness and integrity of the FAO Schwarz stores and brand as we grow the business and, indeed, take the brand to even greater heights," Jerry Storch, CEO and chairman of Toys R Us, said in a news release.. . . more

Commercial Real Estate Fundamentals Slip Sliding Away

With the U.S. unemployment rate now projected by Moody’s to peak at 10.1% by the end of 2009 and credit still hard for investors to secure, there was little to cheer about during a quarterly media briefing Wednesday on the capital markets conducted by real estate research firm Reis.

In short, vacancies in commercial real estate are likely to increase over the next 18 to 24 months with positive rent growth absent from the scene until 2012, or even later. “Investors will have to think longer about hold periods,” Reis director of research Victor Calanog concluded, “and give up aspirations of a quick flip at triple the price in two to four years.”. . . more

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Developers see opportunity in car-dealer lots

GM, Chrysler woes may spur stores, hotels

With dozens of car dealerships in Massachusetts scheduled to be closed, real estate developers are looking to replace the soon-to-be-empty showrooms with stores, hotels, and office buildings.

"This potentially represents a sea change in the availability of commercial real estate," said Len Bierbrier, president of Bierbrier Development of Lexington. "You never see this many terrific opportunities to acquire usable land.". . . more

No new lease on trillions in debt

Commercial real estate loans are coming due

A trillion-dollar storm is gathering over the commercial real estate landscape that's threatening to add further pain to an already bruised US economy.

At the center of the worries is some $3.5 trillion in debt backed by everything from strip malls to offices and apartments across the nation -- the lion's share of which is badly underwater because this recession followed a five-year commercial property boom fueled by easy money and loose underwriting standards. . . . more

Simon Properties has lots of cash, flexibility despite weak economy

Mall giant has taken some hits in recession, but its money-saving policies are starting to pay off

Here's Simon Property Group's survival strategy for these taxing times:

Hoard cash, hack away at costs and hunker down with its vast property holdings.

The strategy, more akin to that of a life insurer than a mall developer, seems to be paying off.. . . more

Spring Retail Remains Dreary

NEW YORK — Spring might be in full swing, but retailers haven’t seen sales warm up.

Heading into Memorial Day weekend, department store buyers and independents said business has been even tougher than predicted this season — and promotions are already ramping up.

“[Spring selling] has not met anyone’s expectations. It has been more challenging than we expected,” said Debbie King, VP and DMM of women’s shoes at Bloomingdale’s, which was gearing up for its holiday sale. “But we have been maximizing opportunities and we have been very aggressive in reorders.” . . . more

Filene's Fishing

Syms, Men's Wearhouse eyeing fallen rival

A high-stakes battle is brewing for off-price clothier Filene's Basement.
While one group has submitted a $22 million bid to keep the 100-year-old retailer alive, discount clothing rivals Syms and Men's Wearhouse are now joining the fray, entering bids to buy the bulk of the bankrupt chain's stores, The Post has learned. . . . more

Retail clinics serve wealthier neighborhoods

CHICAGO(Reuters) - While seen as a way to improve health-care access for the poor and uninsured, retail clinics in the United States tend to be clustered in higher-income neighborhoods, researchers said Monday.

Located in grocery stores and retail chains such as Walgreen Co, CVS Caremark and Wal-Mart Stores Inc, retail clinics offer convenient, walk-in hours for flu shots, treatment of sore throats and other basic services.

They have taken off since 2000, and there are now roughly 1,000 of them in the nation.. . . more

Why Ackman's Got Beef with Target

Barron’s writer Andrew Bary gave voice to a question that is probably on many analysts’ and investors’ minds…what exactly is Bill Ackman’s beef with Target (TGT)? The company has done just about everything right. Pershing Square’s Ackman is basically barking up the wrong tree and I think I know why. He’s painted himself into a corner.

Target is under attack by an activist investor who has lost his shirt, and his clients’, in a hedge fund that bet the wrong way on the direction of the company’s shares. Bill Ackman, head of Pershing Square Capital Management, launched the unusual single-stock fund, Pershing Square IV, in 2007, investing $2 billion only in Target call options and other derivatives. . . . more

Friday, May 22, 2009

Temporary leases please U.S. malls, retailers

LAS VEGAS, May 21 (Reuters) - Small, nimble retailers are taking advantage of the recession and larger rivals' woes as they move into abandoned U.S. store fronts with short-term leases negotiated at a discount.

The strategy is growing in the current downturn, retailers and real estate professionals say, an attractive option for landlords in secondary shopping centers trying to fill vacantstorefronts and retailers previously denied those locations.. . . more

Teen Idols: Aeropostale, Buckle Post Big Gains as Rivals Swoon

Teen retailers Buckle Inc. and Aeropostale Inc. reported sharply higher first-quarter results Thursday, defying the turmoil surrounding many mall-based clothing chains, as each pledged to push ahead with store expansions.

Most teen retailers have been ravaged this year as customers pulled in their purse strings and vanished from malls. But the pair are running circles around rivals including Gap Inc., which Thursday said its first-quarter profit fell 14%.

Buckle, a Kearney, Neb.,-based retailer that sells gothic T-shirts, surfer-inspired shorts and an extensive selection of denim jeans, posted a 44% jump in first-quarter net income. New York-based Aeropostale, which emphasizes basic T-shirts and private-label jeans, reported net soared 81%.. . . more

Retail's cuts cushion a fall

Good news is hard to come by in the retail business.

Or so you would think. Everyone knows how the battered consumer economy left retailers struggling desperately to adapt. Besides banks and financial service companies, you would be hard pressed to come up with another industry under so much business pressure.

Investors would have logically braced for more bad news in advance of this week's parade of quarterly financial reports issued by big retailers. But those reports, by and large, turned out to be much more upbeat than expected.. . . more

Recession Turns Malls Into Ghost Towns

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Malls, those ubiquitous shopping meccas that sprang up in the 1950s, are dwindling in number, with many struggling properties reduced to largely vacant shells.

On the low-income east side of Charlotte, N.C., the 1.1-million-square-foot Eastland Mall recently lost a slew of key tenants, including a Dillard's and, next month, a Sears. Sales per square foot at the venue fell to $210 in 2008 from $288 in 2001.. . . more

Forever 21 wants to take over some Gottschalks spots

Women's clothing retailer Forever 21 has submitted a bid in bankruptcy court to take over 16 Gottschalks locations, including four stores in the Valley -- at Fashion Fair mall, The Shops at River Park, Visalia Mall and Hanford Mall.

Forever 21 wants to create expanded versions of its stores, something the retailer recently started doing since buying 15 Mervyns stores out of bankruptcy in January.. . . more

Borders shareholders told not to expect quick rebound

Borders Group Inc. sees a light at the end of the recessionary tunnel, but it isn't bright.

Borders CEO Ron Marshall told shareholders Thursday at the company's annual meeting that the fall-off in sales for retailers who sell discretionary goods isn't likely to spring back.

"I think the sophisticated and safe route is to assume this is permanent," Marshall said. . . . more

Stores that may not make it to recovery

Analysts say a lack of credit availability almost guarantees more sellers will close shop - even if consumer spending rebounds in the next 12 months.

NEW YORK ( -- The pace of store bankruptcies will pick up -- even if consumer spending rebounds -- in the next 12 months, industry experts say.

That's because most retailers face a severe lack of credit availability, which is now almost on par with the recession as the biggest threat to merchants' survivability, according to financial advisory firm BDO Seidman. . . . more

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Coping With Consumers' Newfound Frugality

To Survive and Prosper, Marketers Must Rethink Everything

If today's frugality and shrinking markets are the new normal, are marketers ready for it?

Consumers make up 70% of GDP, and that figure has contracted 5% since the start of the recession. Yet it's not the image in our rearview mirror that's worrisome; it's the prospect of permanent consumer retrenching. . . . more

RECon: Developers look beyond recession

If one message from the Tuesday RECon concurrent session, "Surviving and Thriving: Development Strategies for Challenging Times," resonated more clearly than others, it was that the best development strategy at present is not to develop at all.

"If you're a developer, the forces are really against you for bringing a property out in the next two to three years," said panelist Pat Donahue, president of Costa Mesa, Calif.–based shopping center owner Donahue Schriber. "For a center to get financed, it will have to be nearly 90 percent leased." And that's assuming the lender is interested in retail construction at all. . . .more

Demographic trends now favor downtown

Growth across the country moves away from suburban and exurban fringe

“Location, location, location” has been the mantra of the real estate industry for as long as anyone can remember. Still, as the national economy transforms in the wake of the economic crisis, the power of place will prove to be ever more important for a broad range of small businesses.

Most demographic and market indicators suggest that growth and development across the country are moving away from the suburban and exurban fringe and toward center-cities and close-in suburbs.. . . more

Board denies Seabrook shopping center

SEABROOK, NH —Target is still coming to Route 1, but another 20 stores have been denied by the town due to traffic and public safety issues, drawing praise from many residents and town officials.

However, the Planning Board's decision to deny the 500,000-square-foot shopping center because of traffic and public safety issues could bring expensive legal repercussions.. . . more

Tesco's Fresh & Easy evolving in tough U.S. market

LOS ANGELES, May 20 (Reuters) - British grocer Tesco is making major changes in its Fresh & Easy stores as analysts worry that the 1 1/2-year-old U.S. chain is still searching for a successful niche.

In what it calls an "evolution," Tesco is putting more focus on value and adding about 1,000 items to its small-format Fresh & Easy stores' current 3,500-product assortment, which represents about 10 percent of what a typical U.S. supermarket carries.. . . more

Nordstrom considering Manhattan site for Rack store

Seattle-based retailer Nordstrom might soon put a store in Manhattan, just not the flagship that had been talked about.

Reporting from a large gathering of shopping-center owners this week in Las Vegas, Women's Wear Daily said Nordstrom appears ready to open a Rack store on Union Square, where a Virgin Megastore used to be.. . . more

Expansion energizes, challenges small mall

The Walpole Mall is undergoing a $25 million, 120,000-square-foot expansion, but there are empty storefronts in the original section.

These could be the best and worst of times for the Walpole Mall, one of suburban Boston's oldest and smallest enclosed shopping centers. On one side of the prominent Route 1 property, a $25 million, 120,000-square-foot expansion is moving ahead briskly, a rare major construction project going forward in the area in the depths of a national recession. Several new businesses already have opened in the addition, including an LA Fitness health club, Famous Footwear, and Olympia Sports.. . . more

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Nordstrom's outlook for 2009 is positive

Blake Nordstrom, president of the Seattle-based retailer that bears his family's name, said Tuesday he's cautiously optimistic about 2009, suggesting that business has leveled off after a sharp decline last year.

Speaking at the company's annual shareholder meeting in downtown Seattle, Nordstrom said he remains committed to a long-term, multipronged strategy that includes improving customer service both online and in stores, as well as keeping down expenses.. . . more

7-Eleven Accelerating Store Growth

DALLAS -- 7-Eleven Inc. is aggressively growing and expects to add more than 200 new stores in the United States and Canada this year. The c-store chain said its multi-pronged approach to growth includes in-line, end-cap space in shopping centers, freestanding stores, urban locations in light industrial sites, city residential areas and suburbia.

Plans call for the convenience chain to accelerate store development over the next several years through organic growth, acquisitions and its Business Conversion Program, the company said in a news release. The convenience retailer, which operates and franchises more than 6,200 stores in the U.S. and Canada, opened 170 stores in 2008.. . . more

Mini Versions of Big-Box Stores

BOTHELL, Wash. — During the current economic downturn, as many companies are closing stores and cutting costs, it might seem counterintuitive to be opening new stores.

Not here in Bothell, around 20 miles northeast of Seattle, where in January, OfficeMax opened one of its three new concept stores in the Seattle area that offer a pared-down selection of its most popular products. Each of the new stores, called Ink Paper Scissors, covers only 2,000 square feet — about a ninth the size of a typical OfficeMax — and offers basics like copy-making supplies and printer-cartridge refills.. . . more

Macy's studies outlet venture

In an effort to capture consumers who shop almost exclusively at outlet malls, Cincinnati-based Macy's is investigating the possibility of creating a new outlet-store group.

"The idea is on paper but we have nothing to announce,'' said Terry Lundgren, chief executive of the downtown Cincinnati-based department store giant during a news conference Friday after the company's annual meeting.

"There is an outlet customer who shops those outlets," he said. "It's an opportunity for us."

Current sales trends suggest a bottom to the recession, Lundgren said, but that trend has not yet turned upward and Macy's is preparing for a highly competitive 2009. . . . more

A Renaissance For Saks

As Fiat boss Sergio Marchionne prepares to turn around American icon Chrysler, another American brand looks set to get an Italian makeover: Saks.

The unprofitable, upmarket department-store chain is in need of a facelift after a year of price-slashing and mounting losses, and the new look is expected to come from Italian fashion emperor Diego Della Valle. Della Valle is chairman of Tod's ( TODGF - news - people ), the luxury shoemaker responsible for the famous "gommino," or driving shoe, and earlier this month he raised his stake in Saks ( SKS - news - people ) to 5.9%. He reportedly has options to hike it to 10%, and is expected to unveil a relaunch plan for Saks soon in New York. . . . more

At REITs, a Debate on Debt

As property companies scramble to reduce debt to strengthen balance sheets, executives who manage real-estate investment trusts are debating just how far the "deleveraging" of the REIT industry should go.

During the real-estate boom, some publicly traded REITs became Wall Street darlings by doing far more than just managing properties and collecting the rent. Real-estate investment trusts borrowed heavily to acquire and develop buildings, adding lucrative fee income to bottom lines but saddling them with big debt loads.

Now that investors have punished the stocks of companies that are heavily leveraged -- for fear they may not survive the economic downturn -- companies are rushing to reduce their debt and become old-fashioned rent collectors again. . . . more

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Consumer confidence highest since September - Findings suggest rising expectations that recession has bottomed out

NEW YORK - U.S. consumer confidence rose in early May to its strongest level since the September failure of Lehman Brothers, with rising expectations the economy may be in the last stages of the recession, a survey showed on Friday.

The Reuters/University of Michigan Surveys of Consumers said its preliminary index of confidence for May rose to 67.9 from 65.1 in April. This was above economists' median expectation of a reading of 67.0, according to a Reuters poll.

The index of consumer expectations jumped to 69.0 in early May, its highest since October 2007 and up from 63.1 in April.

Wal-Mart Powers Up Its Electronics Department - Stores devote more square footage to higher end products, cutting edge brands

Walmart Stores Inc. is launching a major campaign to grow its share of the U.S. $171 billion consumer electronics market with this week’s roll-out of expanded and upgraded entertainment/technology departments in more than 3,500 of its U.S. stores.

In addition to wider aisles and more interactive displays, the new-look electronics sections will build out the stores’ product range with high-visibility brands such as Nintendo and Apple, as well as higher end televisions from Sony Corp. and Samsung Electronics, according to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ)). Coming soon will be Dell Inc.’s new Studio One 19 touch-screen computers and Palm Inc.’s Pre smart phone—moves that experts quoted by WSJ say are marked departures from a time when some manufacturers reserved breakthrough products for specialty retailers. . . . more

Pocketing $387M, SL Green Becomes Latest REIT to Raise Equity Via Public Offering

SL Green Realty Corp. has jumped on the bandwagon of REITs that, facing credit markets that are frozen like a block of ice, have opted to raise funds through public offerings. The company, which is still New York City's largest office landlord, just walked away with net proceeds of approximately $387.4 million after selling 19.55 million shares of common stock.

SL Green's shares were offered at $20.75 each, representing quite a premium over the company's lowest share price of $7.75 within the last 12 months, but a far cry from the high point of $101.07 during that period.

No commercial real estate concern can say that its stock has returned to the high values seen just 18 months ago, but SL Green is faring better than some other REITs. The company reported $263.4 million in revenue for the first quarter of 2009, compared to approximately $253.4 in the first quarter of 2008, and after announcing its public offering, its status was upgraded from sell to hold by brokerage and investment banking firm Stifel Nicolaus & Co. Inc. . . . more

Monday, May 18, 2009

Shaw’s reopens Maine location

Shaw’s Supermarket said it reopened its Sanford, Maine-based grocery store on Friday. The store, an anchor in the city’s Center for Shopping, is a 64,000-sq.-ft. space that features traditional grocery categories, as well as such specialty shops as its Wild Harvest department that features natural and organic merchandise, a fresh salad bar and a Bargain Bin that offers discounted merchandise.. . . more

7-Eleven launches aggressive growth plan

While many retailers are curbing their expansion plans, 7-Eleven is announced its intention to extend its breadth across North America. Besides its plan to add more than 200 new stores in 2009, the convenience store chain announced it will continue the momentum and further increase its store portfolio over the next several years.. . . more

JC Penney Continues Store Expansions

Despite the economic downturn, JC Penney is still on track to have 17 new stores up and running by the end of 2009. The capital expenditure on the store openings will be $600 million.

Furthermore, the retailer plans to accelerate the opening of its Sephora brand division. The “store-within-a-store” concept sells national brands of makeup, skin care, fragrance and accessories.

“We’re quite encouraged by existing stores we’ve put Sephora in,” said JC Penney chairman and CEO Myron E. Ullman at JCPenney’s Q1 2009 earnings conference call. He added that the company anticipates having 155 Sephora inside JC Penney open by the end of the year. “It’s something that’s new and exciting, and something the customer responds to,” Ullman said. . . . more

Why retailing Will Never be the Same - And What to do About It

We're all acutely aware that the Internet and the recession are ravaging the newspaper business and raising the possibility of its extinction. But meanwhile a much bigger industry, the $4 trillion U.S. retailing business, is also being radically reshaped by the Web and the economic downturn. It's happening far more subtly, but the ultimate impact will be just as profound, both for retailers and for the manufacturers that sell through them.

A major shakeout of retail chains is under way, as the bankruptcies of Circuit City ( CC - news - people ), Linens 'n Things, Mervyns and others make clear. What is less well understood is that an economic and technological tsunami has begun to force merchants into one of two camps: They must be either discounters that sell national product brands on the basis of price or stores that don't need to discount because they offer uniquely compelling products and shopping experiences. This bifurcation is beginning to transform the retailing landscape, and it is also spurring some major suppliers that don't like either scenario to open their own stores, as Apple ( AAPL - news - people ) and Coach ( COH - news - people ) already did in recent decades. . . . more

National Development puts Meadow Walk on hold

National Development has shelved plans to redevelop a portion of a 202-acre site bought with partner Pyramid Advisors in 2006.

The plan, formulated back when National acquired the Lynnfield site from Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc., was to build a large mixed-use residential and retail village on a portion of the site where the 18-hole Colonial Golf Course is located. The development, known as Meadow Walk at Lynnfield, was going to include 395,000 square feet of retail, 80,000 square feet of office space and three luxury apartment buildings totaling 180 rental units.

But the middle of a recession is not exactly the time to start construction on 400,000 square feet of retail, said Theodore Tye, managing partner of Newton-based National.

“The project is on hold,” he said. . . . more

A better Big Lots: Recession lets closeout retailer test itself at an 'A-plus location'

Big Lots' new store at Polaris Town Center is significant in a couple of ways for the Columbus-based closeout retailer.

Not only is it the company's first new store in central Ohio since 2005, it is a departure from the past strategy of locating in retail centers and strip malls aimed at discount shoppers.

By choosing a former Linens 'n Things site across from Polaris Fashion Place mall, Big Lots is hoping to upgrade its profile and test some new ways of presenting its merchandise.

"This is the kind of location we couldn't touch in the past," said Chief Executive Steve Fishman. "Now that our performance has improved and there is a good supply of valuable real estate available, we can capitalize on prime real-estate opportunities like Polaris. We'll feature the same great deals Big Lots customers have come to expect -- in an A-plus location and in our hometown.". . . more

Economic Update - Despite Recession, Green Building Continues Apace

Hard times may have come to property development and construction, but that doesn't mean that green building ideas have lost all of their momentum, in either public or private spheres.

In public development, which includes examples of early adopters of green building techniques in the first place, various governments are still pushing hard for green. Late last week, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2187, also called the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public School Facilities Act, by a vote of 255 to 177. H.R. 2187 is a $6.4 billion school modernization bill with the specific goal of building new schools and retrofitting existing schools to be more energy efficient. The measure would also serve to create jobs, perhaps as many as 136,000, according to the Economic Policy Institute. . . . more

Friday, May 15, 2009

Strong Supermarket Sales Increase Offset by Inflation

ARLINGTON, VA — May 14, 2009 — Supermarket industry sales increased 5.2 percent in 2008, and identical-store sales rose 4.5 percent, but these gains were offset by the 5.7 percent food-at-home inflation rate last year, according to the 2009 Food Retailing Industry Speaks: Annual State of the Industry Review released today by the Food Marketing Institute (FMI). Adjusted for inflation, sales declined 0.5 percent and identical-store sales 1.2 percent.

Industry net profits decreased to 1.43 percent, from 1.82 percent, as companies competed more intensely for fewer consumer dollars in a recessionary economy. Contributing to this decline were increases in the cost of goods, health insurance and credit card interchange fees, among other expenses.Independent retailers (companies with 1-10 stores) posted the highest net profits and identical-store sales increases at 1.90 percent and 5.11 percent, respectively. . . . more

Elevation Burger Expands to Manhattan

[2009-05-14] Elevation Burger, a Northern Virginia based chain known for its organic burgers, signed a multiunit franchising deal with experienced restaurant operators Fabian Rosario and John Harris for Lower Manhattan.

The Elevation Burger chain is rapidly expanding its organic burger concept throughout the United States with three locations open in Falls Church, Virginia; Arlington, Virginia; and Baltimore and over forty new locations in development across Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., New York, and Florida. Fransmart, the company that helped launch the ultra successful Five Guys Burgers & Fries chain, is leading the franchise development plans for Elevation Burger.. . . more

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Whole Foods Sees 'Significant' Deflation in Fresh Produce

Whole Foods Market Inc. reported that its fiscal second-quarter profit dropped 32% on declining sales and margins.

Whole Foods also warned that sales comparisons would be challenging in the first half of the year. Even so, the results cheered Wall Street, which had been bracing for worse news.

The specialty grocery-store chain, which has cultivated an upscale image, has been slow to respond to the challenging
environment. It has recently been working to right itself amid the tough economic conditions by cutting costs, suspending its dividend and paring back store openings. . . . more

New Target in Greenland opening July 26

GREENLAND, NH — Mark your calendars: The new local Target store opens July 26.

Company spokeswoman Anna Anderson said store management is now hiring staff and will continue taking applications through the end of the month. Each store hires 150 to 250 employees. Managers for new stores are hired by the corporation and members of the management team go through training before the hiring of general staff. . . . more

Burger sellers on way out of new Fenway

Baseball and burger joints seem to go together, but that won't necessarily be the case near Fenway Park, where developers are moving to replace two fast-food restaurants with upscale mixed-use developments.

The Burger King and McDonald's restaurants on Boylston Street may soon be leveled to help further efforts to create an "urban village" with wide sidewalks, new retail stores, and possibly a hotel and residences.. . . more

Census: U.S. becoming more diverse

Latinos, African Americans, Asians and other minorities account for about a third of the U.S. population. Hispanics are the fastest-growing group.

NEW YORK ( -- The nation is becoming even more diverse: More than one third of its population belongs to a minority group, and Hispanics are the fastest-growing segment.

The U.S. Census Bureau reported Thursday that the minority population reached an estimated 104.6 million - or 34% of the nation's total population - on July 1, 2008, compared to 31% when the Census was taken in 2000. Nearly one in six residents, or 46.9 million people, are Hispanic, the agency reported. . . . more

Pharmacists want CVS investigated

INDIANAPOLIS - A pharmacists association yesterday accused CVS Caremark Corp. of waging unfair competition and asked for a Federal Trade Commission investigation.

The National Community Pharmacists Association has accused Woonsocket, R.I.-based CVS of using sensitive patient information and copayment manipulation to steer patients to its pharmacies and drug mail-order businesses. The Alexandria, Va. association also has talked to members of Congress.. . . more

Commercial real estate: next shoe to drop?

Even as banks grapple with rising foreclosures, many lenders have something else to worry about: A rising tide of potential losses from commercial real estate loans that could reach into the billions.

Delinquency rates and defaults on office and retail buildings and hotels have more than doubled in just six months. For apartments and industrial buildings, the rates have increased more than 80 percent, according to Reis Inc.. . . more

General Growth Properties Chapter 11 Filing Creates Trouble in REIT-Land

Away from the much publicized bankruptcy of Chrysler and, shall we say, imminent entering of Chapter 11 by GM, there is an interesting story going on in the REIT world with General Growth Properties.

What used to trade under the symbol GGP has now added that moniker reserved only for those that have gone to “11” (instead of heaven) - the dreaded “Q” - and trades as GGWPQ.PK. This is the least of it however. It seems that on its way to bankruptcy General Growth, or GG for short, took 166 of its malls along with it.. . . more

Retail Vacancy Glut Could Spell Opportunity

Circuit CityNEW YORK CITY-Notwithstanding hiccups such as the 0.4% dip in overall sales last month, several key indicators in the retail sector are "showing improvement," Cushman & Wakefield’s valuation services group says in a new report. In the meantime, the glut of vacant space will present well-capitalized merchants with a clear path for expansion.

"For certain category-specific retail sectors, the scale of the reduction in selling space has greatly exceeded the reduction in consumer demand," the report states. "This imbalance suggests that a sustained increase in consumer demand will provide retailers with a unique opportunity to absorb vacant space in high productivity locations at terms unthinkable during the recent boom years." . . . more

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Dollar Stores Attract Upscale Crowd

High- and middle-income shoppers are increasingly turning to dollar stores, according to Nielsen Co. research presented today at Nielsen’s Consumer 360 conference.

Dollar stores, which had generally offered cut-rate items at a dollar price point, no longer live up to the name. Only 23 percent of items stocked at dollar stores cost a buck or less.

The increased variety of products and price points are drawing an expanded and more affluent consumer base to these inexpensive retailers. Households with incomes higher than $100,000 spent 18 percent more at dollar stores in the second half of 2008 compared to the year prior. . . . more

PRIET may consider selling assets

Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, a Philadelphia-based REIT that owns three of the region’s largest shopping malls, may consider selling off assets in the wake of a difficult quarter.

The company reported an overall net loss of $11 million for the quarter, compared to the year before.

PREIT saw declines across a variety of measures, including real estate revenue (down 1.1 percent), occupancy, which dropped to 89 percent, and same-store net operating income, which is down more than 6 percent.. . . more

Hospital-linked Health Clinics Come to U.S. Malls

As walk-in clinics at pharmacies and discount stores offer convenient alternatives to doctors' offices and hospital emergency rooms, some hospitals are fighting back - with walk-in clinics at some of those same retailers.

Around the United States, hospitals are now affiliated with more than 25 clinics in Wal-Mart stores. The Cleveland Clinic has lent its name and backup services to a string of clinics in CVS drugstores in northeastern Ohio. And the Mayo Clinic is in the game, operating one Express Care clinic at a supermarket in Rochester, Minnesota, and a second one across town at a shopping mall. . . . more

Circuit City brand, Web site sold at auction

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - An intellectual property consulting firm says bankrupt Circuit City's brand, trademarks and e-commerce business have been sold at auction to a New York-based retailer.

A spokeswoman for Streambank LLC, the consulting firm hired by Circuit City, declined to say how much the sale Monday to Systemax is worth.. . . more

Pottery Barn is latest to quit Newbury St.

After two decades on Newbury Street, home furnishings chain Pottery Barn is moving out of its digs, the latest in a series of merchants to exit the Back Bay retail district.

"We will not be renewing the lease in this location. Our plans for additional Pottery Barn stores in the area are not clear, and so therefore I am not able to speculate," spokeswoman Stephanie O'Brien said.

The company said the lease has expired, but did not provide details on when it plans to vacate the shop at 122 Newbury St., its second store closing in the region. Earlier this year, Pottery Barn left South Shore Plaza in Braintree, along with its sister chain Williams-Sonoma. The parent company, Williams-Sonoma Inc., took a series of actions recently to slash costs, including cutting the workforce by 18 percent, closing a call center in Pennsylvania, and shuttering a distribution facility in Tennessee. Pottery Barn still operates stores in the Atrium at Chestnut Hill and the Burlington Mall.. . more

Retail Sales Drop Unexpectedly In April

WASHINGTON -- Retail sales fell for a second straight month in April, a disappointing performance that raised doubts about whether American consumers were regaining their desire to shop. A rebound in consumer demand is a necessary ingredient for ending the recession.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that retail sales fell 0.4 percent last month, much worse than the flat reading economists expected. The April weakness followed a 1.3 percent drop in March that was worse than first estimated.. . . more

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Shopping Center REITs’ Performance Stable, But Likely To Get Worse

Like the majority of the U.S. REIT universe, shopping center REITs outperformed analyst expectations in the first quarter of 2009, largely because of low performance guidelines. Out of 13 sector REITs, more than half beat consensus analyst estimates. Core operating metrics, however, including occupancy and income, showed some softness and will likely continue to do so for the remainder of the year, according to industry insiders.

For the three months ended March 31st, seven shopping center REITs beat consensus analyst estimates, by a range of $0.01 per share to $0.33 per share. . . .more

A Target for South Shore Plaza?

Officials for mall operator Simon Property Group Inc. said they are in talks with Target Corp., the national discount chain, to open another anchor store at South Shore Plaza in Braintree.

Under discussion is whether a roughly 150,000-square-foot Target store would occupy some space in a new wing of South Shore Plaza now under construction, said Simon, whose national mall portfolio includes roughly a dozen shopping centers in Massachusetts.

In a press release, Simon officials said that they are currently working with the Town of Braintree on the Target permitting process.. . . more

Target may broaden price-matching campaign vs. Wal-Mart

Target Corp. has started matching the prices of competitors in three parts of the country in a pilot program that could go nationwide by fall.

The effort furthers Target's attempt to gain traction against competitors, especially Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which has had its own price-matching program in place for sometime and has been soundly beating Target on the sales front. . . . more

Monday, May 11, 2009

Some big retailers to expand

While the barrage of store closings grabs most headlines, a number of major retailers plan store openings this year as well.

A study of 250 major retail chains by commercial real estate information provider CoStar Group found they plan to open nearly 4,000 stores this year and close about 3,600, a number that is expected to increase as additional retailers fall victim to the economy through closings and liquidations. . . .more

Abercrombie to Take Over Hickey Freeman at 666 Fifth

Dominating Fifth Avenue at 56th Street clearly isn't enough for Abercrombie & Fitch. The company plans to open another outpost three blocks south of their tourist-swamped flagship in what's now Hickey Freeman's flagship store at 666 Fifth. Those who aren't fans of the brand might see some significance in that address, but the property's owners mostly sound thrilled to get a huge, sidewalk-clogging line of their very own: "Hickey wasn’t appealing to the tourist trade, which drives volume on Fifth," one rep pointed out to WWD.

Hickey is actually closing due to the bankruptcy of its parent company, Hartmarx, which probably won't open a new branch until its financial woes have been resolved. The same building lost a Brooks Brothers in January, and Abercrombie initially had their eye on that space, but the Hickey location is bigger. Abercrombie plans to dedicate the new location to their children's label, abercrombie, meaning that any perma-line that does develop will include a lot of strollers. . . . more

Goodwill Goes Super-Size

New retail outlet in Norwich, CT redefines 'thrift shop'

Marcus Notz admits he was surprised - very surprised.
As the marketing and public relations expert for Easter Seals Goodwill Industries, he's done his share of thrift store openings.

But on April 30, when the New Haven-based nonprofit opened a new Goodwill “super store” on Route 82 in Norwich, there
were lines of people extending down the sidewalk, the parking lot was packed and eager shoppers couldn't wait to get into the 12,000-square-foot retailing complex, one of the nonprofit's largest within its chain of 10 - soon to be 11 - thrift stores.. . . more

Rally of Dow real-estate index defies market concerns

NEW YORK — The stock market has for weeks been dogged by talk of trouble lurking in commercial real estate, yet an exchange-traded fund of commercial property companies has rallied 50 percent in the past two months — despite commercial mortgage delinquencies hitting 11-year highs in April.

Delinquencies are up "by a factor of five from a year ago. Even though commercial real estate lags the cycle, the numbers highlight the battle banks face in producing profits," said Nick Kalivas, equity analyst at MF Global Research. . . . more

Target’s Strength Makes Dissident’s Assault A Likely Failure

Investor Bill Ackerman, who has held an investment in Target for almost twoyears and has lost a great deal of money in the process, wants to replace part of the retailer's board. Ackerman has been trying to get Target to separate some of its credit holdings into a new company to "unlock" the value of the financial arm of the firm. The recession and rising consumer defaults have made that plan look less attractive.

According to The Wall Street Journal, "Mr. Ackman says his candidates will bring new ideas to the discount retailer and relevant expertise to a board he describes as slow to make critical decisions." . . . more

Walgreens Co Acquires 31 Drug Fair Stores

Walgreens Co (NYSE: WAG) (NASDAQ: WAG), a drugstore chain, disclosed on 8 May that its acquisition of 31 Drug Fair stores in central and western New Jersey has been completed.

This follows an agreement signed in March in association with Drug Fair's Chapter 11 bankruptcy process. Financial terms of the transaction were not disclosed. . . . more