Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Dealing with the rain

Merchants counter wet weather with discounts, sales to attract customers

Salon Capri owner Nicholas Penna Jr. is doing what he can to keep the rain from washing profits away.

After weeks of weather-related cancellations, Penna launched a Puddle Jumper pedicure special, which lowers the price of the Newton salon’s luxury pedicure by $1 each day it rains in June - and includes an umbrella-covered escort from the parking lot. By yesterday, the $45 treatment was $38, a price Penna didn’t think he’d ever get to.. . . more

Rite Aid Completes $1.9 Billion Refinancing Of Its September 2010 Debt Maturities

CAMP HILL, PA (June 29, 2009) - Rite Aid Corporation (NYSE: RAD) announced today that it has successfully completed its previously announced refinancing of the majority of its September 2010 debt maturities, including its $145 million Tranche 1 Term Loan and $1.75 billion senior secured revolving credit facility.

The comprehensive refinancing plan was accomplished in a series of transactions. . . . more

Grocers on defensive as dollar stores rise

In addition to heightened competition from top U.S. food seller Wal-Mart Stores Inc., grocers must also defend their turf against scrappy dollar stores that are using food to tempt shoppers like Bugueno, amid the recession.

Family Dollar Stores Inc. has added 200 new food products, like Triscuit crackers and Kraft salad dressing, while Dollar Tree Inc. is installing freezers and coolers to sell ice cream, sandwich meat and frozen dinners.. . . more

Retailers' early summer sales doomed

NEW YORK – As consumers get ready to celebrate July Fourth, many merchants already have dismissed summer as a washout.

Macy's flagship store has racks of summer tops, swimwear and dresses marked down as much as 50 percent, while luxury retailer Bergdorf Goodman is slashing prices on designer goods by as much as 70 percent. Meanwhile, piles of clothing as well as barbecue grills, tents and gardening tools are bypassing stores and heading straight to liquidators as merchants try to conserve their cash.. . . more

Monday, June 29, 2009

America's Most Profitable Malls

Everybody knows that American shoppers have cut back their spending, driving some retailers—and even some malls—out of business. But commerce hasn't ground to a complete halt, and Americans are still spending on some things. Somewhere.

Using data from Green Street Advisors, an investment research firm in Newport Beach, Calif., that specializes in publicly owned real estate companies, U.S. News identified malls in which the retail economy is relatively healthy. . . . more

Tough times? Not for Kearney, Neb., retailer

KEARNEY, Neb. -- The recession doesn't seem to be holding back a Kearney company from growth.

The Buckle has unveiled plans to build a 240,000-square-foot distribution center. The new center will be used to service and supply The Buckle's 391 stores it operates in 40 states. . . . more

Redbox becomes cashbox

Refrigerator-sized movie dispenser shows up competitors

Karen Forman constantly needs something from the grocery store. Milk, bread or a movie.

Yes, a movie.

Renting movies has never been more convenient, cheap or ubiquitous.

Redbox, the $1 do-it-yourself
rental machine the size of a refrigerator, offers DVD movie renters convenience at a place people visit all the time: the grocery store, among other places. . . . more

Is this the future bookstore?

Machine downloads books from a massive database while the customer waits

The Northshire Bookstore, in quaint Manchester Center, Vt., has all the classic trappings: exposed beams, wood tables stacked with hardcover bestsellers, comfortable leather chairs nestled into alcoves.

And then there’s “Lurch,’’ a hulking jumble of machinery that is often groaning and shuddering in a corner behind the sales counter.. . . more

Ruth’s Chris Owner May Raise $200M

HEATHROW, FL-Locally based Ruth’s Hospitality Group Inc. seeks to raise up to $200 million in capital through the sale of various types of securities. The company, which owns Ruth’s Chris Steak House and a number of other restaurant chains, filed a Form S-3 shelf registration statement with the Securities and Exchange Commission late last week.

Ruth’s stated in a release that it has no current commitments or intentions to sell securities, but made its SEC filing for flexibility to access capital markets as needed. A written prospectus will be issued in advance of any securities offering, the company said.. . . more

Upgrading Wal-Mart

Retailer aims to keep a new flock of customers.

The recession steered a new type of customer to Wal-Mart — deeper in the pockets and suddenly looking for bargains. Now the world's largest retailer has to figure out how to keep that customer when the economy recovers.

So Wal-Mart is bringing in more
brand names, ditching scores of other products and even redesigning hundreds of stores to give them wider aisles, better lighting and better sight lines. . . . more

Friday, June 26, 2009

U.S. called new emerging market for real estate

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Brazil, Russia, India and China move over. There's another emerging market for commercial real estate opportunities.

"Now that the meltdown has happened, the new emerging market is the United States," Tom Shapiro, president of real estate investment firm GoldenTree InSite Partners, said on Tuesday at the Reuters Global Real Estate Summit in New York.. . . more

J.C. Penney president takes job as CEO of Foot Locker

J.C. Penney Co. president and chief merchandising officer Ken C. Hicks is leaving the Plano-based department store chain to become CEO of Foot Locker Inc.

Hicks, 56, joined Penney in 2002 during the company's restructuring. He helped develop Penney's off-mall store strategy and new merchandise brands. Hicks' move to Foot Locker, an athletic footwear and apparel retailer, is a return to the shoe business. He came to Penney from Payless ShoeSource Inc., where he was president.. . . more

Housing saviors: The echo boomers

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- The seeds of a housing recovery have already been planted, according to a report released Monday. In fact, many of them were sown starting around 1979.

According to an annual state of the nation's housing from Harvard University's Joint Center for Housing Studies, once the U.S. emerges from recession, strong demographic trends will restore health to the housing market. The key is echo boomers, the 75 million Americans born between 1979 and 1995.. . . more

5 Housing Markets That Have Further to Fall

Boston may be poised for a comeback

Home buyers looking for a bottom in the real estate market may have been encouraged by housing data released earlier this week. Sales of existing homes rose 2.4% in May, according to the National Association of Realtors. The increase was a little less than most analysts had expected, but it represented the second straight month of improvement. Meanwhile, sales of new homes dipped 0.6% in May, continuing a trend of fairly flat months so far this year, according to data released by the Commerce Department.

Don’t get too excited – it’s still too early to say the housing market bottomed out, analysts and economists say. Distressed properties still account for about a third of all sales, and 29% of sales were to first-time home buyers, who are currently benefiting from an $8,000 tax credit.. . . more

Landlords file objections in Eddie Bauer bankruptcy

Eddie Bauer Holdings Inc. (NASDAQ: EBHI) wants a judge in U.S. bankruptcy court in Delaware to set a bid deadline of July 14 and a July 16 date to auction off the retailer’s assets. But The Macerich Co., headquartered in Santa Monica, Calif., and three other landlords want more time to evaluate any proposed deal.

“The landlords
did not create debtors’ financial maladies, and should not bear the consequences of this bankruptcy through loss of their contractual rights,” Macerich and the other landlords said in a court filing Thursday.. . . more

Best Buy to Open 40 Mobile Phone Stores

Electronics retailer Best Buy plans to grow its mobile phone venture, called Best Buy Mobile, by opening 40 standalone handset stores within the year, which it hopes will boost its share of the U.S. market.

The Richfield, Minn.-based company's new chief executive, Brian Dunn, said mobile phones will be a crucial part of the company's new campaign to focus on "gadgets with connectivity." . . . more

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Targeting groceries

As a top executive at Target Corp., Kathee Tesija already had analyzed the data, crunched the numbers and fine-tuned the details on a new plan to add a small grocery area to Target's general merchandise stores. But the concept didn't truly pass muster until Tesija pushed her own cart through a test store, her family's shopping list in hand.

"For two teenage boys and a busy family, I could get all the basics, and certainly enough to make dinner," said Tesija, executive vice president of merchandising for the Minneapolis-based retailer. "Maybe we don't have 10 choices, but we've got two or three.". . . more

Distressed real estate totals $97.4B

National distressed commercial real estate totaled $97.4 billion in early June, including foreclosures, lender-owned properties, and foreclosures, according to a new report from Delta Associates.

Distressed commercial real estate volume has doubled every three months since December 2008 with retail properties representing the largest segment in June, at $29.7 billion.. . . more

Rite Aid Pushes for Rent Reductions

CAMP HILL, PA-Drugstore chain Rite Aid is trying to cut some deals with its landlords. The company, with just over 4,800 units across the country, is trying to get rent reductions, “to improve the overall profitability and viability of the store” at certain locations, said Frank Vitrano, the retailer’s chief financial officer, during its first-quarter conference call.

Rite Aid’s management is in the “early stages” of those talks and expects to give and update on its progress at the end of this quarter. But the company is already moving forward on cutting some excess real estate, closing 86 stores during its first quarter. . . . more

Dress Barn, Inc. Announces Merger Agreement with Tween Brands, Inc.

SUFFERN, N.Y.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Dress Barn, Inc. (NASDAQ - DBRN) and Tween Brands, Inc. (NYSE- TWB) today jointly announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement pursuant to which a subsidiary of Dress Barn, Inc. will merge with Tween Brands, Inc. in a stock-for-stock transaction.

Under the terms of the merger agreement, each share of Tween Brands, Inc. common stock will be exchanged for 0.47 shares of Dress Barn, Inc. common stock. Based on Dress Barn Inc.’s stock price of $13.24 as of June 24, 2009, this consideration would be equivalent to $6.22 per Tween Brands, Inc. share, representing an aggregate equity value of approximately $157 million. This represents a premium of 20% over Tween Brands, Inc.’s closing stock price on June 24, 2009. Upon closing of the transaction, Tween Brands, Inc.’s stockholders are expected to own approximately 16% of Dress Barn, Inc.’s diluted outstanding shares. In connection with the transaction, Tween Brands, Inc.’s outstanding bank debt will be repaid. . . . more

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Walgreens to expand renovation program

New York City (June 24, 2009) Based on the performance of a 35-store pilot progam, Walgreen Co. will expand its customer-centric retailing initiative chainwide through 2010, according to GlobeSt.com.

The program will be rolled out to some 400 stores this fall and then be expanded nationwide through calendar 2010, executives said at the company’s third quarter conference call, the report said.. . . more

Why REITs Are Ahead of the Recovery Curve

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The recapitalization and recovery of the nation’s commercial real estate industry promises to be a “difficult and painful journey” over the next few years, but major steps taken by publicly traded real estate investment trusts (REITs) provide a potential roadmap to renewed financial health.

U.S. REITs have raised $15 billion of equity from the public capital markets year-to-date and several billion dollars more in debt from the public bond markets. The moves have helped boost REIT stock prices significantly in recent months, Steven Wechsler, president and CEO of the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts, told a group of real estate writers and editors gathered last week for a national conference. . . . more

Westford planners OK mall

WESTFORD, MA -- On a 4-1 vote, the Planning Board has ended a nearly three-year, sometimes contentious saga by giving its approval to the proposed Cornerstone Square "lifestyle center."

The board this week signed a development agreement with Westford LC, LLC, that will enable the construction of 238,000 square feet of an upscale mix of retail, personal services, offices, and restaurant space at the busy intersection of Boston and Littleton Roads. . . . more

Dates set for Target in Seabrook, NH

Attorney Malcolm R. McNeill, Jr., who represents Developers Diversified Realty (DDR), the Ohio-based developer of the proposed Target store, attended last week's Planning Board meeting to clarify deadlines agreed upon for the first phase of the project. McNeill did so to follow up on the board's March 17 decision, which required Phase I conditions of approval be met by July 9.

Last Tuesday's session between McNeill and board members focused solely on the proposal to construct a Target store on Route 1, and not on the recently denied second phase of the project, which would have constructed a retail shopping center at the site.. . . more

Merchants seek local control of Faneuil Hall

$20m raised so far to buy out lease

A group of merchants at Faneuil Hall Marketplace has raised more than $20 million as part of an effort to take control of the shopping center and tourist attraction from its bankrupt landlord.

Yesterday, the retailers said they have received pledges from local celebrities, athletes, and other business owners to buy the lease from General Growth Properties Inc. and run the property themselves. They estimate they need to raise at least $50 million to have a chance at winning control of the Marketplace and stabilizing its operations, after years of unsettling changes and an influx of national chains.. . . more

Walmart wants to keep new flock of customers

Retailer is seeing more affluent customers as thriftier habits take hold

The recession steered a new type of customer to Walmart — deeper in the pockets and suddenly looking for bargains. Now the world's largest retailer has to figure out how to keep that customer when the economy recovers.

So Walmart is bringing in more brand
names, ditching scores of other products and even redesigning hundreds of stores to give them wider aisles, better lighting and better sight lines.. . . more

Walgreens looks to reopen tap on beer, wine sales

Walgreen Co. is in the early stages of bringing liquor back to its stores.The Deerfield-based drugstore chain exited the liquor business in the early 1990s at most of its stores except for a few markets in the Southeast and Southwest, the company said during its fiscal third-quarter conference call with analysts Monday.

Walgreens is in the midst of applying for the local government licenses needed to reintroduce beer and wine to its national chain of more than 7,000 stores, according to company spokeswoman Tiffani Washington.. . . more

Leases in Troubled Times

FLORHAM PARK, NJ-Due to a spate of retailer bankruptcies, both tenants and landlords must be aware of their rights and obligations under their leases. That was the theme of a recent program sponsored by Day Pitney LLP.

“It’s fair to say we are currently seeing unprecedented difficulties in the retail sector, with closures by large retailers as well as small mom-and-pop stores,” says Richard Meth, a bankruptcy/creditor’s rights partner at Day Pitney’s office here. “And we will see many more retail bankruptcy filings in the months ahead.” . . . more

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

June is washing out all over

Seemingly ceaseless rain makes business even worse

It’s summertime, and the living is soggy. Yesterday was the 14th day of precipitation this month, and the near-constant drizzle has taken a toll on everybody. From Faneuil Hall to Downtown Crossing to Newbury Street, restaurant and store owners, already pummeled by the economic slowdown, gazed at sheets of relentless rain and said the lousy weather is just the latest sucker punch.. . . more

Syms says Basement belongs downtown

Syms Corp. chief executive Marcy Syms yesterday said she is committed to bringing back Filene’s Basement to Downtown Crossing, but needs time to study whether the famed automatic markdown policy will remain at the clothing chain’s flagship store.. . . more

Anchor Blue to close 46 underperforming stores

Anchor Blue, a specialty retailer of casual apparel and accessories for the teenage and young adult markets with 177 stores across 12 states, is closing 46 underperforming stores nationwide as part of its overall restructuring plan. . . . more

Monday, June 22, 2009

In Recession, Strategy Shifts for Big Chains

Shopping as we know it is on the brink of major change.

Hammered by the recession, some of the nation’s biggest retailers are seizing the moment to reinvent their business strategies. And the impact will mean both sweeping changes in the merchandise on their shelves and subtler alterations, like how many pantyhose to keep in stock.

High-end stores like Neiman Marcus, Saks and Coach will offer more midpriced merchandise. Many chains, including Wal-Mart, will carry less inventory and fewer brands. The likes of Sears and J. C. Penney will put self-service computers in stores so customers can browse collections or buy out-of-stock items. And retailers of all stripes will offer more exclusive merchandise and more attentive customer service.

One of the biggest changes consumers are likely to see is greater personalization and regionalization of merchandise.

An initiative known as “My Macy’s” requires the retailer’s merchandisers and other planners to go into stores each week to learn from the sales staff — who keep logs at the cash registers — what shoppers are requesting, snapping up or complaining about. . . . more

Walgreen fiscal 3Q profit fell 9 percent

Drugstore operator Walgreen Co. (WAG, News) said Monday its profit fell 9 percent in the fiscal third quarter despite improving sales as greater expenses, including those related to its reorganization efforts, reduced its income.

Deerfield, Ill.-based Walgreen aims to cut its annual expenses by $1 billion starting in 2011, which is adding to its costs this year. In the quarter ended May 31, it earned $522 million, or 53 cents per share, down from $572 million, or 58 cents per share.. . . more

Redbox might just overtake Netflix

BELLEVUE — With more subscribers than ever flocking to its DVD-by-mail service, Netflix is one of the few companies to prosper during the worst U.S. recession in 70 years. Yet Netflix CEO Reed Hastings still has something to worry about: an even cheaper DVD rental service run by one of his former lieutenants.

Once just an incongruous experiment amid the burgers and fries at McDonald's restaurants, Redbox has emerged as the largest operator of DVD-rental kiosks, with more than 15,400 vending machines set up to dispense $1-per-day discs in supermarkets and discount stores.. . . more

Consignment stores offer big brands

Now here's a cure for that teenage fashionista of yours who feels bitten by the recession.

At Uptown Consignment in South Windsor -- a renovated former CVS store which owner Barbara Capenera believes is the largest single consignment store in the country -- that pinched fashion plate of yours can earn an instant $10 for her Seven jeans, or $30 for her Citizen's Humanity or True Religions.. . . more

Do Macy's Debt Levels Indicate Weakness?

This analysis compares a portion of the balance sheets for these retailers: Macy's (M), Sears (SHLD), Wal-Mart (WMT) and JC Penney (JCP). I’ve also included a word about the circumstances of Eddie Bauer (EBHI) compared to Macy's.

Based on these numbers, Macy's ratio of debt to revenue looks out of proportion compared to its competitors:. . . more

Finish Line to exit Man Alive division, sell 75 stores

Finish Line is finished with its struggling Man Alive division.

The Indianapolis-based national sportswear chain announced a plan to sell its urban-and-street focused segment, which have been unprofitable.

Finish Line said it entered into an agreement with a newly formed LLC called Man Alive Acquisition. MA will pay $7 million, including $5 million in cash, for 75 retail stores that go by the nameplate Man Alive or its recently rebranded streetwear concept, Decibel.. . . more

Boston: North End businesses go fashion forward

Boston fashion has an unlikely new address: the North End.

While some retail districts are increasingly dotted with empty storefronts, the North End is seeing a burgeoning number of boutiques that sell everything from designer dresses to high-end handbags. It’s a big change for a neighborhood better known for authentic Italian cafes than high-end dress shops.

The North End is benefiting from a retail sweet spot - a combination of low rent, improved access since completion of the Big Dig, and increased foot traffic from sports fans leaving games at TD Banknorth Garden.

Since August, three new boutiques - Moda, an athletic apparel store on Salem Street; Bobbles & Lace, a Prince Street store selling designer clothing, purses, and jewelry; and Filthy Rich of Boston, a high-end jewelry and accessories store on Hanover Street - have set up shop. They join seven other fashion boutiques that have arrived in the neighborhood since 2004, and cater to young, hip professionals.

“I looked on Newbury Street, I looked in Beacon Hill, I looked in Downtown Crossing, I looked all over,’’ said Amy Montminy, the owner of Filthy Rich of Boston. She said she moved to the North End because she was looking for a small location that had a lot of foot traffic. "I was looking for a tourist-y, neighborhood-y storefront". . . more

Friday, June 19, 2009

Bookstores in a Real-Estate Bind

Barnes & Noble Scales Back Openings, Shifts Locations Amid Building Slump

Even as Barnes & Noble Inc. cuts the ribbon Friday on a new 55,000-square-foot store on Manhattan's Upper East Side, the chain is scaling back its real-estate ambitions for the rest of the year, posing another problem for the revenue-starved book industry.

Barnes & Noble, the nation's largest bookstore chain measured by sales, at one time hoped to open as many as 35 superstores in 2009. Instead, it has 15 in the pipeline, most of which will replace existing neighborhood branches. The retailer will also close 15 superstores this year, five more than earlier forecast.. . . more

Kohl's maneuvering through recession well

Kohl's Corp. is maneuvering through the recession fairly well, an analyst said Thursday, but the department store operator's June sales results may lag due to unfavorable weather conditions.

Daniel Binder of Jefferies & Co. said in a client note that the Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based company has managed to keep pace during the economic downturn by rolling out new brands, cutting costs, tightening inventory and creating effective promotions.. . . more

Wal-Mart opening clinics in Maine

BREWER, Maine — Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems expects to team up with Wal-Mart to open health care clinics at some stores in the EMHS service area before the end of this year.
The pending partnership was announced at the annual meeting Thursday of the EMHS corporators, a group charged with providing community oversight of the organization and its affiliates. . . . more

Eddie Bauer's Chapter 11 could close 120 stores

(Crain’s) — Eddie Bauer Holdings Inc. could close as many as a third of its 371 stores as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection filing, according to a summary of the struggling sportswear retailer’s $202-million deal to sell its assets to a New York private-equity firm.

New York-based CCMP Capital Advisors LLC, which has agreed to buy the firm’s assets, has committed to keeping open only 250 stores, according to a motion Eddie Bauer filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court. . . . more

Abercrombie's RUEHL Closings Stress Failure of Apparel Spin Offs

Abercrombie & Fitch recently announced it will pull the plug on its RUEHL chain, a concept with 29 stores in high-profile malls across the country that targeted well-heeled consumers in their 20s. Abercrombie blamed “the severe economic downturn” for sinking the stores, which launched in 2004, generating an operating loss of $58 million during the company’s prior fiscal year.

But maybe it’s not just the economy’s fault in this case. REUHL is just another example long line of concepts rolled out by established chains over the last few years that were either closed or abandoned. The lesson here is that some of these retailers might be better off sticking to their core concepts instead of pushing ever more demographic-specific options out to the consumer.

Here’s a quick look at some of these troubled spin offs:. . . more

Syms Corp Consummates Its Acquisition of the Assets of Filene's Basement, Inc.

SECAUCUS, N.J., June 18 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Syms Corp (Nasdaq: SYMS), a leading off-price retailer, announced today that following the receipt of Bankruptcy Court approval, Syms consummated its previously announced acquisition of substantially all of the assets of Filene's Basement in Filene's Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings.

Under its asset purchase agreement with Filene's Basement, Syms, through a wholly-owned subsidiary, acquired the vast majority of the current operating Filene's Basement store leases, store fixtures and inventory and is focused on maintaining the Filene's Basement name and tradition. The total consideration to Filene's Basement amounted to approximately $65 million plus certain additional costs of Filene's Basement that were assumed by Syms. . . . more

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Wal-Mart Medical Clinics Stumble

Two years ago, Wal-Mart Stores (WMT) announced plans to have retail medical clinics in 400 of its stores by 2010 and said it saw the potential for as many as 2,000. By February 2008, the retailer had 78 clinics. But now,—after failed venture-capital collaborations, a few faulty partnerships, and a reassessment of the business model—it has only 31.

For a company known for its retail acumen and dominance, that retrenchment illustrates the complicated nature of incorporating basic-care facilities into a big-box business model.. . . more

Aeropostale Announces the Opening of the First 'P.S. From Aeropostale' Store

NEW YORK, June 18 /PRNewswire-FirstCall/ -- Aeropostale, Inc. (NYSE: ARO), a mall-based specialty retailer of casual and active apparel for young women and men announced today that it has opened its first "P.S. from Aeropostale" store in the Palisades Mall in West Nyack, New York. The Company plans to open approximately nine additional stores, primarily in the New York metropolitan area, during fiscal 2009.

The new P.S. from Aeropostale(TM) brand offers trend-right merchandise at compelling values for girls and boys ages seven to twelve. . . . more

DDR deals could help it win TALF aid from Federal Reserve

DDR could be one of the first participants in a Federal Reserve program aimed at bolstering the battered commercial real estate market.

The shopping-center owner, based in Beachwood, is working with investment banks Goldman Sachs and Citibank to prepare two groups of properties -- each worth about $800 million -- as collateral for loans through the Fed's program. The Fed aims to revive the $700 billion market for commercial mortgage-backed securities by offering low-cost financing to investors who buy bonds backed by mortgages on office towers, shopping centers and apartments. . . . more

Giant Food builds market share

Renovations, lower prices make it No. 1 in area grocery stores

In one of the most challenging times for supermarkets in many years, price played an important role in how well area grocery stores performed last year, according to an annual survey released by trade publication Food World.

Giant Food gained market share in the Baltimore region for the first time in six years, appealing to shoppers with lower prices and other things such as renovated stores.. . . more

State pushes a wave of construction

Governor Deval Patrick’s administration will spend hundreds of millions of dollars this summer building roads and highway ramps for at least five struggling private developments - from the former Naval air station in Weymouth to Somerville’s Assembly Square - in hopes of jump-starting construction and the local economy.. . . more

McDonald's gains ground from rivals with marketing blitz of McCafé brand

It’s cornered the market on Big Macs, fries, and shakes. And now McDonald’s is riding a massive marketing campaign to make gastronomic gains in premium coffee.

Not only has the Golden Arches stolen share from java leader Starbucks as the place most preferred by coffee drinkers, but McDonald’s has also dislodged Dunkin’ Donuts from its second-place spot, according to the May 2009 survey by BIGResearch of more than 8,000 consumers.
McDonald’s is “like a 9,000-pound gorilla,’’ said Dennis Lombardi, executive vice president of food service strategies for WD Partners, a restaurant and retail design and development consultancy.

“They have made a very strong push to build share with its McCafé brand and to show it is an alternative to coffeehouses.’’. . . more

Mass. adds jobs for the first time in a year

Massachusetts gained 4,900 jobs last month, the first increase in a year, according to a survey of employers' payrolls from the state's Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

But the state's unemployment rate continued to climb, from 8.0 percent in April to 8.2 percent in May, even though the labor force shrank slightly last month, according to the state's survey of households. The US unemployment rate jumped from 8.9 percent in April to 9.4 percent in May.. . . more

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Eddie Bauer files for bankruptcy protection

NEW YORK (AP) — Clothing retailer Eddie Bauer Holdings Inc. filed on Wednesday for Chapter 11 bankruptcy court protection, the latest retail casualty of the recession.

It said CCMP Capital Advisors LLC has bid for its assets. Other buyers may also make bids while the company is under court protection. . . . more

Best Buy Challenges Walmart on Employee Smarts

With Increasing Market Share, Electronics Retailer Gets Aggressive on Costs, Messaging

NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Best Buy is picking up market share, thanks in part to the demise of rival Circuit City. But the electronics giant also has a formidable competitor in Walmart, which has been revamping its electronics departments and stocking more-sophisticated products. Now Best Buy is battling back with a spot that calls out Walmart by name. . . . more

A&F Decides Ruehl’s Fate

After a one-month “strategic review,” Abercrombie & Fitch decided to shutter its 29-door Ruehl unit and amend its credit agreement, giving the firm additional financial cushion as it winds the business down this year.

Ruehl had pre-tax operating losses of about $58 million last year and was deemed to be less promising than the company’s overseas expansion.. . . more

Hyannis Filene's left out again

HYANNIS — It was a new auction with a new winner — but the same outcome for Filene's Basement in Hyannis, which was again excluded from the sale of the retail chain.

The store at the Cape Town Plaza on Route 132 employs 37 people, according to William Parness, a publicist for the chain.. . . more

Barnes & Noble to Open New Flagship Store on Manhattan’s Upper East Side

NEW YORK--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS), the world’s largest bookseller, will open a new flagship bookstore on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, New York, at 150 East 86th Street and Lexington Avenue on June 19. The new store will stock more than 400,000 book, music, DVD and magazine titles and include a café serving Starbucks coffee. The new Upper East Side Barnes & Noble will be open every day from 9 a.m. to 11 p.m., and employ 200 people from the community.

At approximately 55,000 square feet spanning two floors with elevator access, the bigger, better, and all-new Barnes & Noble will serve as a community center for the Upper East Side. . . . more

Best Buy Planning Radical Store Remodel

Best Buy is planning to radically alter its store layout to emphasize services and test new product categories. According to Credit Suisse retail analyst Gary Balter, Best Buy will move its Geek Squad stations to the center of the sales floor and surround them with room vignettes that demonstrate the capabilities of converged products.

The new store model could also accommodate new product categories that are currently being tested, including exercise equipment, musical instruments and possibly used videos, Balter wrote in a research note based on discussions with management.. . . more

Basement to reopen downtown

Flagship location and other sites will be considered

Discounter Syms Corp., which won a bid on Monday to buy bankrupt Filene’s Basement, intends to return the bargain brand to its flagship store in Downtown Crossing or another location in the neighborhood, according to a local official with knowledge of the plans.

Syms offered $62.4 million for the beleaguered business in a venture with New York real estate firm Vornado Realty Trust and Gale International, the two firms that own the downtown Boston property where the Basement has operated for more than 100 years. That location has been closed since 2007 because of a stalled $700 million redevelopment project that has been unable to secure financing.. . . more

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

May housing construction jumps by 17.2 percent

WASHINGTON—Construction of new homes jumped in May by the largest amount in three months, an encouraging sign that the nation's deep housing recession was beginning to bottom out.

The Commerce Department said Tuesday that construction of new homes and apartments jumped 17.2 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 532,000 units. That was better than the 500,000-unit pace that economists had expected and came after construction fell in April to a record low of 454,000 units. . . . more

Cash infusions boost CBL

Top officials at CBL & Associates Properties Inc., one of the nation's largest shopping center developers, say major moves over the past few weeks have solidified its finances.

The Chattanooga-based real estate investment trust has issued 66.6 million shares of common stock for proceeds of about $382 million. It is using the money to pay down debt.

CBL also said it has received commitments from groups that hold 91 percent of its unsecured credit line, or $510 million, to extend the repayment date to April 2014. In addition, the company said it has already received extension commitments from 80 percent of the participants in its $525 million secured credit facility.. . . more

Best Buy grabs market share; Earnings better than expected

Best Buy on Tuesday reported first quarter earnings that were better than expected as the retailer continued to grab market share amid the demise of Circuit City. However, same store sales fell 6.2 percent and most categories excluding home office equipment declined, and May sales were weak.

The leading electronics retailer reported income of $153 million, or 36 cents a share, on revenue of $10.09 billion, up 12 percent from a year ago. . . . more

Frugal Consumers Could Squeeze Restaurants As Costs Rise

NEW YORK -(Dow Jones)- Restaurants could see their margins squeezed as inflationary pressures return to the commodity markets, especially as the chains find it harder to wean customers off a steady diet of meal deals.

Analysts expect higher ingredient and energy costs for restaurants in 2010, with inflation returning to normal levels after a year when costs increases moderated and, for some items, fell from year-ago levels. That could make it harder for chains to continue with the aggressive stream of coupons, buy-one- get-one-free offers and other promotions to bring customers into their doors.. . . more

Monday, June 15, 2009

91% of Shoppers Will Keep Buying Store Brands After Recession Ends

NEW YORK, June 15 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- New consumer polling data shows that an overwhelming majority of U.S. supermarket shoppers will continue purchasing store brand products after the recession is over.

A poll conducted this month by GfK Custom Research North America for the Private Label Manufacturers Association reports that 91% of shoppers say they will keep buying store brand products after the recession ends. Conversely, only 8% of the consumer polled said they will stop buying these products. . . . more

Syms has winning bid for Filene's Basement

A $62.4 million offer pushes aside Men's Wearhouse, but can it bring automatic markdowns back downtown?

Discounter Syms has unseated Men's Wearhouse as the winner of the troubled Filene's Basement chain with a $62.4 million bid for the bankrupt bargain business.

But the future of the Downtown Crossing flagship, famed for its automatic markdown policy, is unclear, according to Terry Corrigan of Abacus Advisors, the firm overseeing the Basement's restructuring.. . . more

No deal yet for Filene's Basement

The auction for the bankrupt Filene's Basement chain will continue on Monday, with discounter Syms Corp. likely to raise its $61.2 million offer for the 100-year-old brand.

So far, Men's Wearhouse Inc., in a joint bid with real estate firm Crown Acquisitions Inc., has submitted the highest proposal, $64.9 million for 20 shops, including the shuttered flagship in Downtown Crossing; inventory; and the trademark name, according to Terry Corrigan of Abacus Advisors, which is overseeing the Basement's restructuring. The Men's Wearhouse deal allows the company to decide later whether to maintain the Basement's headquarters in Burlington, which employs about 49 people, and the warehouse in Auburn, where about 50 people work, Corrigan said.. . . more

Demoulas Opens Biggest Store

CHELSEA, Mass. — Demoulas Market Basket has opened what reports said is the largest supermarket in the state, a 135,000-square-foot store here employing 300 workers.

The location includes a café and full-service bakery, according to a report in the Boston Business Journal. . . . more

No Circuit City Stores Yet, Says Systemax Exec

New York — Circuit City will remain an online-only business for the immediate future, according to Systemax, the IT supplier and retailer that acquired the bankrupt chain’s brand and Internet business last month.

“It’s too soon to say whether Circuit City stores will appear,” said Gilbert Fiorentino, chief executive of Systemax’s technology products group, which also operates the company’s CompUSA and TigerDirect businesses. “We’ve only owned it for two weeks, and we haven’t figured out what to do with it yet.”. . . more

Wegmans: A sit-down with Rochester's hometown grocer

For consumers, the last six months have been the most worrisome time that Danny Wegman can remember.

When the 62-year-old chief executive of Wegmans Food Markets Inc. visited stores with company president Colleen Wegman, 38, last fall, they heard pleas from customers for lower prices. Meanwhile, Tops, PriceRite and Wal-Mart all announced expansions in the company's back yard.

But Wegman said the tough economic climate brought "one of the highest emotional connections I've ever felt with our customers," and the company responded with a series of price reductions that slashed its profit margins to the bone, ultimately costing the company $12 million.. . . more

Limited eyeing sale of $500M in senior notes

Limited Brands Inc. told investors it is looking to raise up to $500 million through the sale of senior notes.

The Columbus-based parent of the Victoria’s Secret and Bath ¶ Body Works retail chains on Monday outlined details of the private offering, which will generate cash to pay down debt and be used for general corporate purposes. The notes come due in 2019, the company said.. . . more