Friday, October 30, 2009

Five Below to open six stores

Philadelphia-based discount retailer Five Below plans to open six stores during the first week of November.

Three of the stores are located in the Pittsburgh area, a new market for the chain. The other locations are in Philadelphia, Altoona, Pa., and Enfield, Conn. . . more

Pop-up stores help fill mall space during economic slump

Clerks at 25 of about 750 Spirit Halloween stores will go from saying "Boo" this weekend to "Ho ho ho" in a couple of weeks as the temporary locations transform into ToyZam for the winter holiday season.

And then, just like that, they'll be gone.

Unlike the vacancies created by bad luck and a bad economy, these and other stores — including Calendar Club, Hickory Farms and some Gucci sneaker shops — are set up to close up. These "pop-up," or temporary, stores actually benefit from the downturn as mall owners and other landlords are often happy to have a two- or three-month tenant rather than no one to fill voids left by the departures of Linens 'n Things, Circuit City and other retailers. Some mall companies even have people whose full-time jobs are to fill temporary store space. . . . more

Cabela's opening smaller prototype in CO

Outdoor outfitter Cabela's has announced plans to build its first retail store in Colorado next year.

says the store in western Colorado's Grand Junction should open next summer. The 75,000-square-foot Grand Junction store will anchor the south end of Mesa Mall. . . . more

Target taps RadioShack to run cell-phone depts.

Target Corp. is outsourcing the mobile-phone departments inside its stores to RadioShack Corp.

Kiosk Operations Inc., a
wholly owned subsidiary of Forth Worth, Texas-based RadioShack, took over mobile phone sales at about 100 Target stores in Minnesota, California, Georgia, Illinois, New Jersey, Texas and Washington earlier this month. . . . more

Booksellers ask feds to investigate book pricing

Airline tickets, gasoline, video-game systems — a wide variety of products have been the target of price wars. It's been rare to see literature a part of that list, though, until now. Inc., Target Corp. and Wal-Mart Stores Inc. are vying to undersell each other not on big-ticket items like big-screen televisions, but on mere books. . . . more

OfficeMax Stands Pat on Closures

NAPERVILLE, IL-OfficeMax has completed its major store closures, executives said at the company’s third quarter conference call. The retailer shuttered some 100 units since 2006, with two-thirds of the chain’s leases coming up for renewal in five years.

“We carefully assess the cost benefit of store closures,” said Sam Martin, executive vp and COO. “We believe it is not necessary to close a large number of stores in the next year.” . . . more

Z Gallerie emerges from bankruptcy, completes capitalization

Home furnishings and accessories retailer Z Gallerie said late Tuesday it has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy and completed its recapitalization in less than six months.

The company also said it has reached an agreement with Wells Fargo Business Credit on a $22 million exit financing package.

“We are pleased to have obtained support from our major constituencies and to have completed the process so quickly,” said Mike Zeiden, CFO and co-founder. . . . more

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Wal-Mart Price War Sets Grim Tone For The 2009 Holiday Season

American retail chains panicked last holiday season as they stared at overstocked shelves and wondered, "How will we sell all this stuff?" Their response to the collapse of the economy--namely, to markdown everything in sight and cross their fingers--was a last-minute act of desperation. Because they spent the past year ruminating about worst-case scenarios, however, many retailers now face a new problem as the holidays actually approach, says Stevan Buxbaum, executive vice president of Agoura Hills, Calif.-based Buxbaum Group, the consulting and turnaround investment firm.

"Retailers were so nervous they over-constricted their inventories," explains Buxbaum, who looks for comparable store sales to be in the flat to negative 1% range for the season. . . . more

Mass. sees 18% slide in construction jobs

Employment in Massachusetts’ construction sector plummeted 18 percent, or by some 19,300 jobs, in the past year — a falloff that was well in excess of the national decline of 13 percent, according to data released by the Associated General Contractors of America.

The biggest decline, in total job numbers, was seen in the Boston-metro area, where 11,700 positions disappeared in the past 12 months. That was an 18 percent year-over-year slide.. . . more

Sears moves up Black Friday by a month

Sears took “Christmas creep” one step further Wednesday, pitching its weekly sales as “Black Friday doorbuster” deals before Halloween.

The merchant, owned by struggling parent company Sears Holdings Corp., said it would kick off the weekly specials Friday evening and open stores at least two hours early every Saturday through Thanksgiving, hoping to draw shoppers with the promise of markdowns before the day after Thanksgiving.. . . more

Chain’s next Target is fresh food market

Target is rolling out fresh food in 30 Philadelphia-area stores.

The retailer always did well selling packaged food in this market, exceeding company averages, said spokeswoman Jill Hornbacher. So Philadelphia was a natural as a test market for a concept featuring meat, produce and baked goods.

With 6 million area residents, it is ripe for “vast sales opportunities,” Hornbacher said.. . . more

Holiday forecast predicts 2.4% rise in holiday sales

Holiday retail sales will grow by a solid if not spectacular 2.4% year-over-year, a sharp turnaround from last year’s unprecedented 4.1% decline, according to a new report from Customer Growth Partners. In its annual Holiday Sales Forecast, the firm noted that its estimate of $502 billion in predicted 2009 November-December sales still lagged the peak $511.1 billion in 2007 sales-- and were barely above the $497.1 billion level seen in 2006.

“Americans have endured a series of economic body blows over the past year, from the housing and credit crises to rising unemployment, but they’re now beginning to pick themselves off the mat, dust themselves off -- and start to shop again,” said Craig R. Johnson, president, Customer Growth Partners, New Canaan, Conn.. . . more

Remaking Wal-Mart

Big-box retailer overhauling a look that some customers say is too plain

Funny thing about customers. Wal-Mart Stores Inc. not long ago discovered many of its paying clientele -- a female-dominated group that has spent billions at its stores and helped it become the world's largest retailer -- didn't like some of its most distinctive features.

In surveys, customers said they found the big blue and gray exteriors of the Bentonville, Ark., retailer's stores and its logo "kind of cold and industrial looking," said Kate Mora, market manager for 12 Wal-Mart stores in Allegheny, Butler, Lawrence, Beaver and Washington counties. In general, they wanted the places to be faster, friendlier and cleaner.. . . more

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

RioCan makes $181-million U.S. foray

Canada's largest mall owner set to acquire shopping malls in the northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states from Cedar Shopping Centers

RioCan Real Estate Investment Trust is making its first major U.S. acquisition, with a $181-million deal to acquire shopping malls in the northeastern and Mid-Atlantic states as well as a minority stake in a U.S. developer.

Canada's largest shopping mall owner said Monday it had struck definitive agreements with Cedar Shopping Centers Inc. to take an equity stake in the Port Washington, N.Y. real estate investment trust, owner of 124 shopping centres.. . . more

Buffalo Wild Wings Looks Global

After a solid quarter, Buffalo Wild Wings is on the path to becoming a worldwide brand, executives said at the company’s third quarter conference call.

Plans call for 29 units to open in the fourth quarter, on the way to 1,000 units in the US, said Sally Smith, president and CEO. The current pipeline projects unit 13% to 15% unit growth in 2010, with more company—owned units debuting in the second half. Franchise openings will be even throughout the year.
. . . more

Small Shops Make Big Play for Holiday Shoppers

Merchants Roll Out Christmas Wares Weeks in Advance to Lure Customers Away From Large Discount Retailers

Small brick-and-mortar shops that rely on seasonal sales are seeking creative ways to avoid last year's bloodbath of discounting, as cash-strapped consumers are expected to gravitate toward big-box and discount retailers.

Toy and gift shop Groovy dc rolled out its holiday merchandise in early October—a full month earlier than usual—advertising Halloween and Christmas simultaneously. . . . more

Taubman Posts Third Quarter Loss

Taubman Centers Inc. posted its third quarter earnings results Tuesday, seeing a net income loss of $1.77 per diluted share.

Vacancy fell in the third quarter as well. Taubman’s portfolio was 88.5% occupied, down from last year’s Q3 number of 90.5%. Rent per square foot declined across the portfolio to an average of $43.47, compared to $44.04 from Q3 2008.

Mall tenants saw sales drop 8% in Q3, which brings the total decline in the last year to 11.8% or $497 per square foot. . . . more

Costco plans to accept food stamps nationally

Costco Wholesale plans to accept food stamps at its warehouse stores nationwide, a major shift for a company that earlier this year said it doubted there would be enough demand among customers to warrant accepting food stamps in even one market, New York City.

"The rules are different today," CEO Jim Sinegal said. "People who were in good shape financially all of the sudden are needing some assistance.". . . more

Super 88 chain seeks bankruptcy protection

Super 88 LLC, the parent company of an Asian grocery chain owned by a local father-son business team, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Monday, putting the chain’s potential sale on hold.

According to its filing in the US Bankruptcy Court District of Massachusetts, Super 88 - which operates stores in Allston, Dorchester, and Malden - has at least 200 creditors. The stores will remain open for business during the proceedings.. . . more

U.S. consumers optimistic ahead of holidays

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Bruised U.S. retailers might find some solace in Deloitte's most recent survey that showed American consumers were more optimistic about the economy as the holiday shopping season kicks off.

annual holiday survey released on Wednesday showed fears about the recession slowly subsiding, with about 54 percent of the participants expecting the economy to improve in 2010. This compared with just 28 percent responding favorably last year.. . . more
After battling a terrible economy for the past year, Limited Brands thinks that better times are ahead.

"It feels to me kind of like we've got our mojo back," said Leslie H. Wexner, chairman and CEO, in an investor conference at company headquarters yesterday.

The retailer, whose biggest chains are Victoria's Secret and Bath & Body Works, has stores that are "brimming with emotional content," Wexner said. . . . more

Rite Aid completes refinancing of securitization facilities

CAMP HILL, Pa. (Oct. 27) Rite Aid on Monday successfully completed its previously announced plan to refinance its existing first lien accounts receivable securitization facility and second lien accounts receivable securitization facility due September 2010. As a result of the refinancing, Rite Aid has refinanced all of its September 2010 debt maturities.

As of Oct. 23, 2009, there was $475 million outstanding under the securitization facilities.. . . more

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Westgate Mall is headed for auction

The struggling Westgate Mall in Brockton, MA is up for a foreclosure auction next month. The 532,135-square-foot enclosed mall is slated to hit the auction block on Nov. 18, according to an online listing by auctioneers Paul E. Saperstein Co.

Earlier this year, Westgate Mall general manager Luciano Villani said the vacancy rate had reached over 10 percent and the mall was postponing indefinitely plans to add a movie theater to replace a Filene’s department store that closed several years ago.. . . more

Less to choose from

Retailers reduce inventories after being stuck with glut last year

Shoppers willing to pry open their wallets may find a surprise on the shelves this season: not as many brands, a diminished palette of colors, and fewer deep discounts.

At Saks Fifth Avenue, the luxury retailer has slashed its inventory by about 20 percent compared with last year. Department store JCPenney is running nearly 14 percent leaner. And even discounters like Wal-Mart have decreased inventory by about 6 percent.. . . more

Retailers' weekly sales rise from year ago

Chain-store sales for the week ended Oct. 25 rose 2.4% from the year-earlier period, according to a survey released Tuesday by the International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs. On a week-over-week basis, sales climbed 0.1%.. . . more

Supermarket Revenues Seen Flat Into ’10

NEW YORK — Moody's Investors Service here last week said it expects revenue growth in the supermarket industry "will remain close to flat or slightly negative" into early 2010.

In a report, the debt-ratings agency said it expects that "most" supermarkets will be able to maintain cash flows near current levels, thanks to cost-reduction initiatives, although it said some companies in the sector will be pressured. . . . more

Black Friday: How Much Will It Matter?

In some ways, there's something comforting about the way retailers are gearing up for Black Friday, that make-or-break kickoff to the holiday season. Stores like Target are already shoving aisles of Christmas items in between the Halloween costumes. And advertising circulars are already being leaked to deal-finding websites, creating a buzz retailers count on to build traffic.

But there are also signs that this holiday season - the second consecutive year of dreary economics lessons - will be different. . . . more

Toys R Us to open FAO Schwarz boutiques

Ahead of the holidays, Toys R Us is opening FAO Schwarz boutiques in some of its stores and relaunching the iconic toy store's Web site.

The announcement gives the first clear indication of Toys R Us' plan for the brand best known for the scene in the 1988 movie "Big" in which Tom Hanks danced on a floor piano. The largest U.S. toy-store chain bought the brand in May.. . . more

Why we don't hate Wal-Mart anymore

NEW YORK (Fortune) -- It seems like only days ago that Wal-Mart was the most evil company on the planet.

The list of accusations: It locked workers in stores overnight and ignored overtime rules; it didn't give health-care benefits to a lot of workers; and its execs dreaded union organizers so much they actually shut down a store to avoid letting the labor guys in the front door.. . . more

Monday, October 26, 2009

Pastries and finance: a match made in Bellingham

Some cash with your coffee? Citizens Bank has opened the first ever full-service branch inside a Dunkin’ Donuts shop so consumers can have a one-stop shop for their banking and bakery needs. Located at 815 South Main St. in Bellingham, the branch features three teller windows and a full-service ATM and is open for business seven days a week.

Citizens Bank has opened the first ever full-service branch inside a Dunkin’ Donuts shop so consumers can have a one-stop shop for their banking and bakery needs. Located at 815 South Main St. in Bellingham, the branch features three teller windows and a full-service ATM and is open for business seven days a week.. . . more

Walgreens Agrees to Acquire Assets of 12 Eaton Apothecary Pharmacies in Boston Area

DEERFIELD, Ill., Oct. 23, 2009 - Walgreen Co. today announced a definitive agreement in which the company agreed to acquire the assets of 12 Eaton Apothecary pharmacies in the Boston area from D.A.W., Inc., a subsidiary of Nyer Medical Group, Inc. The transaction is valued at approximately $19 million.. . . more

Commerical real estate struggles amid some signs of hope

Seacoast's commercial real estate market may be rebounding; brokers see positive signs

Earlier this month, the former Circuit City building on Woodbury Avenue in Portsmouth was sold in a deal that says a lot about the current commercial real estate market — falling prices and opportunities for a different set of economic players.

"This is
prime real estate property and just two years ago the price would have been higher," said Kent White, a vice president with the commercial real estate firm CB Richard Ellis in Portsmouth. White helped facilitate the sale of the 35,000-square-foot property, which was initially listed at $6.4 million and finally sold for $3.5 million.. . . more

Opportunists hunt deals in commercial real estate

.Just about every player in the real estate business—whether individual investor, private-equity fund or publicly traded company—is trying to raise capital to take advantage of what they see as an inevitable shakeout in commercial property.

More than $3 trillion in real estate loans, many of them the short-term and interest-only variety, come due in the next five years. Few owners have any equity left in their buildings, let alone enough to meet the higher thresholds banks are demanding for refinancing. And funding from commercial mortgage-backed securities—a $1 trillion funding source just three years ago—has disappeared entirely. . . more

Life after retail death

Halloween stores take over where other businesses used to thrive

The recession hasn't been so scary for Halloween stores. In fact, they're finding better haunts in the graveyards of failed retailers.

The seasonal sellers are taking advantage of the spate of retail bankruptcies and closings to open more - and larger - temporary stores this year in better locations. It adds up to an aggressive bid to capture cautious consumers' dollars in an industry that has grown rapidly over the past decade. . . . more

American Eagle Outfitters uses pop-up to debut 77kids

American Eagle Outfitters on Wednesday debuted its new children’s concept, 77kids by american eagle, in a pop-up holiday store at The Mall at Robinson, Pittsburgh. It is the first brick-and-mortar environment for the brand, which was launched online in October 2008. The company plans to open permanent 77kids stores in 2010.

The brand offers “kid cool” on-trend clothing and accessories for boys and girls ages two to 10. American Eagle Outfitters was founded in 1977, which is the inspiration for the 77kids name.. . . more

Friday, October 23, 2009

Giant retail vacancies pile up across N.H.

The Walmart store in Hooksett moved across the street in August, reborn as a new “supercenter,” a building of some 150,000 square feet, leaving the older, smaller 75,000-square-foot building empty.The empty Walmart in Hooksett is only the most recent addition to the growing roster of empty big-box stores. In fact, the sight of vacant large – sometimes very large – former retail outlets has become particularly more commonplace in the wake of the bankruptcy of retail chains like Circuit City, Linens ‘n’ Things and Tweeter.. . . more

Supervalu to double Save-A-Lot store count over five years

Supervalu said Tuesday that the discount grocer plans to double its chain size to 2,400 stores during the next five years.

"This is not an abandonment of traditional grocery; this is an acceleration of Save-A-Lot," CEO Craig Herkert told analysts during Supervalu's fiscal second-quarter earnings call.

Supervalu said its core business will remain its chain of traditional supermarkets, including Albertson's, Jewel-Osco and Farm Fresh.. . . more

Wal-Mart launches holiday price-reduction program

Wal-Mart Stores has launched its holiday price-cuts program. Starting Wednesday, Oct. 21, and lasting through the holiday period, the chain will announce new pricing reductions each week, beginning with select items in groceries and entertainment.

"Many of these prices represent the lowest we've offered in years, because we know these are tough times for American families,” said Eduardo Castro-Wright, vice chairman, Wal-Mart Stores.. . . more

Microsoft opens first-ever retail store in Scottsdale

Microsoft served notice on archrival Apple on Thursday with the Scottsdale opening of what will likely become a global chain of retail electronics stores.

The first Microsoft Store, located behind a sleek storefront at Scottsdale Fashion Square, is the software giant's answer to its competitor's international chain of 275 Apple Stores.

While Apple Stores primarily sell Apple computers, iPhones and iPods, the Microsoft Store carries products from a variety of manufacturers.. . . more

Sam’s Club to cut costs and focus on essentials

Wal-Mart Stores' Sam's Club will cut prices on specific items, offer more everyday goods like food and health-and-beauty items, and edit its assortment of general merchandise.

Addressing investors on the second of two days of analyst meetings in Roger, Ark., near the company's headquarters in Bentonville, Sam’s Club CEO and president Brian Cornell said he hopes to steal customers from rivals by focusing on fewer but bigger initiatives.. . . more

Target developer, town await court decision

SEABROOK, NH — After a merit hearing in Rockingham Superior Court on Friday, Oct. 16, expectations are that the case filed by Developers Diversified Realty (DDR) against the town of Seabrook will be resolved within the next two to four weeks.

A view of the site involved where DDR was prohibited from building a retail shopping center along with its already approved Target proposal, has been completed. The tour by legal counsel and court officials included the Route 1 and 107 intersection in Seabrook, along with Lafayette Road, south of that point to the Kohl's and Lowe's shopping center. Travel to areas north of the intersection as far as North Hampton, were also included in the study of the project.. . . more

Thursday, October 22, 2009

RREEF Outsources 11M SF of Retail

Completing its program of getting out of the property management business, RREEF Real Estate has outsourced about 11 million square feet of retail at 58 centers across the US, the company announced Wednesday. Jones Lang LaSalle, United Commercial Realty, Mid-America Asset Management Inc., Crosland and KeyPoint Partners will take over direct property management of RREEF’s retail property portfolio; RREEF will continue as asset manager. . . . more

National Development sells Lowe's site

National Development has sold a Lowe’s store to Tanglewood Investors for $23.2 million. The store is currently under construction.. . . more

Chang’s to Ramp Up Pei Wei Growth

P.F. Chang’s China Bistro will begin ramping up the expansion of Pei Wei in the next two years, executives said at the company’s third quarter conference call.

After analyzing Pei Wei trends, the company feels comfortable beginning to expand the chain again, including entering the Chicago market, and other areas where Pei Wei has a presence, said CEO Bert Vivian. . . . more

Basement hopes for bounce of the centur

Filene’s Basement is launching its biggest advertising campaign in a decade, with network and cable television spots, newspaper ads, and gift card giveaways to celebrate the brand’s 100th anniversary.

As Filene’s Basement enters its first holiday season after emerging from bankruptcy protection this summer, new owner Marcy Syms wants to make a splash with the historic company that claims to have invented the bargain.

“We want to make sure that we reach as many people as possible to let them know Filene’s Basement is still here and we are stronger than ever,’’ Syms said in a phone interview yesterday. “We are the place where bargains were born and never go out of style.’’

The campaign, totaling over $1 million, includes commercials on “Good Morning America,’’ the “Today’’ show, and the “Early Show’’ during this week’s launch and during the week of Thanksgiving. Filene’s workers at the company’s 23 stores are now wearing “Where Bargains Were Born’’ T-shirts and buttons, and consumers can purchase their own anniversary mugs and T-shirts at the shops.

Filene’s Basement was founded in Downtown Crossing in 1909 by Edward A. Filene as a way to sell excess merchandise from his father’s department store upstairs. The business, famed for its “Running of the Brides’’ events, expanded to nearly 56 stores in the mid-1990s, but later had to pull back because it opened in markets where the brand was unknown and the merchandise too similar to what other retailers were offering. . . . more

Swiss Farms planning to expand

For more than four decades, Swiss Farms drive-through convenience stores have been providing a quick and easy way for Delaware County residents to grab a gallon of milk or a loaf of bread on the way home from work.

Now, the retailer has plans to branch out through franchising. The first franchise location is scheduled to open its lanes to traffic next spring across the Delaware River in Somerdale, Camden County.

"It's been a Delaware County staple of a long time, done very well. There's no reason it can't be everywhere," said chief executive officer Paul Friel, who joined the Broomall company two years ago after 20 years at the Wawa and Sunoco A-plus convenience-store chains. . . . more

Michaels Opens First Store in Manhattan, Tests Urban Setting

Michaels Stores Inc., the largest arts-and-crafts retailer in North America, opened its first Manhattan location as it tests an expansion into big cities.

The store at 97th Street and Columbus Avenue in New York is the closely held chain’s “first urban footprint,” Chief Executive Officer John Menzer said in a telephone interview Oct. 16. “This will be a learning lab for us. We’ll try different things in Manhattan and use what we learn at the next couple of urban stores we open up.”

Michaels typically operates in suburban settings, said Menzer, 58. The Irving, Texas-based company, which sells fine arts, scrapbook and jewelry-making supplies, already has stores in Long Island and Queens, New York. Lower rents in Manhattan made the new shop more affordable than before, Menzer said. Plus, craft stores tend to outperform other specialty retailers in slow economic times, he said. . . . more

Ahead of the Bell: Wal-Mart

Wal-Mart expected to outline price-cutting strategies; some expect accelerated store growth

Some analysts expect Wal-Mart Stores Inc. may announce plans Wednesday at its analysts' meeting that it will accelerate U.S. store growth next year. Wall Street is also looking to hear details of more price-cutting strategies as it heads into the holiday season.

Any move to increase store growth would come as the world's largest retailer has come a long way in improving store performance by paring down inventory, offering spruced-up merchandise and remodeling stores.

Wal-Mart's share price soared 13 percent in 2008. However, the stock has slipped almost 6 percent so far this year, as investors focus on beaten-down shares of companies that sell more discretionary items like clothing and home furnishings.

Shares slipped 19 cents to $51.70 Tuesday, below the middle of its 52-week range of $46.25 and $59.23.

Wal-Mart's stock suffered from 2005 to late 2007 as its zigzag between upscale and discount goods slowed sales growth.

"Wal-Mart has earned the right to grow, and it does not sound like it would result in meaningful capital expenditures growth as (year-to-year) square footage growth will likely be similar" to 2009, wrote David Binder, an analyst at Jeffries & Co. in a note published Tuesday. . . . more

Boston Fed reports broad economic decline

Business leaders from New England expect a “slow recovery ... in 2010,” a Federal Reserve Bank of Boston report released Wednesday states.

Among sectors showing “positive signs” is residential real estate, the researchers wrote in the Fed’s eight-times-a-year summary of economic conditions, commonly known as the Beige Book.

Among the report’s highlights, broken down by sector for New England: . . . more

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

American Eagle Outfitters uses pop-up to debut 77kids

American Eagle Outfitters on Wednesday debuted its new children’s concept, 77kids by american eagle, in a pop-up holiday store at The Mall at Robinson, Pittsburgh. It is the first brick-and-mortar environment for the brand, which was launched online in October 2008. The company plans to open permanent 77kids stores in 2010. . . . more

Retail icon in Harvard Square is up for sale

Bob Slate, Stationer, a Cambridge merchant that has been doing business in Harvard Square for 75 years, is up for sale, its owners said. The owners are Justin and Mallory Slate, sons of founder Bob Slate, and according to a press release issued by the Slate brothers, the term "stationery store" doesn't quite do justice to a shop that in their words, is "a country store for the artistic, academic, and intellectual community."

At any rate, Justin Slate started working at his father's store in 1963 and was joined by Mallory Slate 10 years later and now, the brothers say, it is time to "move on to new chapters in their lives and seek a new owner" for Bob Slate, which operates three stores now, all in Cambridge.. . . more

Cafe OK’d as 1st step of Hancock Tower plan

Boston officials last night approved a plan to open an 8,000-square-foot restaurant in the John Hancock Tower, part of an effort by new owner Normandy Real Estate Partners to increase public traffic and attract tenants in this sluggish office market. The restaurant will likely be a cafe-style eatery with a casual atmosphere, according to an executive familiar with the plan. Normandy, part of a joint venture that bought the Hancock at an auction last spring, also won approval to build a 120-space parking garage under the building.. . . more

Curtain may come down on plan for Westgate Mall movie theater

12-screen complex unlikely to happen, says city councilor

The fenced work site at Westgate Mall sits idle, a vacant eyesore, with no sign of the movie theater that was to be built there. Construction on the 12-screen theater was originally set to begin last spring, then was postponed for six to 12 months because of the slumping economy. The cinema was billed as a way to keep moviegoers in Brockton — many now travel to the Showcase Cinemas in Randolph — and boost business at the shopping mall off Route 24. Now, Ward 7 Councilor Christopher MacMillan said the theater plan may be dead.

“It looks like it’s not going to happen,” said MacMillan. “I’m getting very bad vibes.”

He wants something done to improve the area where the vacant Macy’s store was demolished to make room for the new theater. The mall owners had planned to build a 20,000-square-foot addition to Westgate Mall on the former Macy’s site. It was to include the theater, eateries and other businesses catering to patrons of the theater.. . . more

Citizens runs on Dunkin'

America may run on Dunkin’ Donuts coffee, but one local bank is hoping a branch inside one of the coffee giant’s stores may add its own version of liquidity to customers’ fiscal diets.

Citizens Bank said Tuesday it was opening its first branch inside a Dunkin’ Brands store. The new operation will be at 815 South Main St. in Bellingham. The branch will offer window teller service as well as private offices for loan applications and other specialized services. The branch will be open seven days a week, while an ATM is also available in the eatery.. . . more

Halloween, the Holidays, and the Madoff Mask

It’s almost Halloween - time to think about what scares you. What gives you bad dreams, what makes you shake and sweat, what represents the ultimate in frightfulness? We’re told by the AP, via the New York Times, that venerable Halloween purveyor Rubie’s Costume Company has delivered 15,000 rubber Bernie Madoff masks, with more to follow. Spooky.

I suppose it’s fitting that, in this time of unprecedented economic disarray, Halloween’s chosen figure of fright is a financial villain (one need hardly wonder at the current popularity of vampires, who at least have the courtesy to be upfront about their bloodsucking).These are scary times indeed in the retail industry, which is so attuned to and dependent on the emotions of shoppers.

As you know, we always open this publication with a headline about monthly same-store sales. . . more

Commercial Real Estate Debt Won't Be The Next Shoe To Drop, Economists Say

For months, the buzz has been that commercial real estate—with $3.4 trillion in outstanding debt, $1.4 trillion of which is coming due by the end of 2012—would precipitate the next leg in the credit crisis and possibly derail the broader economic recovery. To some, that mountain of debt coming due represents a clear parallel to the trillions of dollars in residential loans that helped destroy more than 100 banks and made the current recession the deepest and longest since the Great Depression.

The situation seems especially ominous given that commercial real estate values are off 40 percent from market peaks and credit markets are barely out of hibernation mode. That means indebted owners can't sell a property and repay their mortgage with deal proceeds. It also makes refinancing difficult. Today, borrowers have to put more of their own equity into a deal and lenders have tighter standards. Loan-to-value (LTV) ratios are not only lower than they were at market peaks, but have to be based on the current value of the property, which is lower than it was a few years back. That means a bank might want to replace an 80 percent LTV mortgage on a property once worth $10 million with a 60 percent LTV mortgage on a property now worth $6 million. To some people, this is sending off warning bells that commercial real estate may do as much damage to our financial system as residential mortgages did in 2007 and 2008. . . . more

Supervalu Looks to Double Save-A-Lot

Determined after a comprehensive review to become "America’s neighborhood grocer," Supervalu will now use and expand its brands in an integrated--rather than geography-specific way--to enhance its growth, executives said in the company’s second quarter conference call. One result will be the doubling of Save-A-Lot stores over the next five years.
Brands that may not have appeared in a given market may thus make debuts if their niche is appropriate, said Craig Herkert, CEO and president, using Chicago as a case in point.

"Jewel Osco has 185 stores and a 36% market share, and while it’s a real local favorite, it may not always be the best format to serve every market," Herkert said. "Some customers might find Save-A-Lot a more appealing offering.". . . more

Toy chain plans Mass. express stores

Toys “R’’ Us Inc. will open several temporary Holiday Express stores in Greater Boston.

The New Jersey-based chain said it will open express stores at the Natick Collection mall, Square One Mall in Saugus, and Marshall’s Plaza in Newton from roughly now until mid-January.

Plans also call for the chain to open Holiday Express stores within many of the company’s Babies “R’’ Us stores. In Massachusetts, Holiday Express stores are planned for Babies “R’’ Us stores in Braintree, Peabody, Everett, and Framingham, among other locations.. . . more

NRF: Consumers to spend less this holiday

According to NRF’s 2009 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, U.S. consumers plan to spend an average of $682.74 on holiday-related shopping, a 3.2% drop from last year’s $705.01.

“While last holiday season was filled with chaotic confusion, adjusting to uncertainty has now become routine for many Americans,” said NRF President and CEO Tracy Mullin. “This holiday season will be a bit of a dance between retailers and shoppers, with each group feeling the other out to understand how things have changed and how they must adapt.”
According to the survey, more than half of holiday shoppers say that sales and price discounts (43.3%) or everyday low prices (12.7%) will be the most important factor when deciding where to shop. Factors like selection (21.0%), quality (11.8%), convenience (4.9%) and customer service (4.4%) declined from last year. . . . more

Ahold Posts Q3 Sales Gains

Ahold here said sales at its Stop & Shop and Giant of Landover division were up 1.9% in the third quarter, to $4 billion, as comparable-store sales rose 0.6% at Stop & Shop and 2.7% at Giant-Landover.

Identical-store sales rose 0.2% and 2.3% at the two chains, respectively (0.7% and 1.5% excluding gasoline).

At Giant of Carlisle, sales were up 0.8%, to $1.1 billion. IDs fell 1.5% (a 1% gain excluding gasoline), and comps were down 0.1%.

Total company sales grew 4.3%, to about $9 billion U.S. (up 2.6% at constant exchange rates.)

H&M Grows Net Profit, Pipeline

Swedish chain raises 2009 target from 225 stores to 240

After reporting a 4.1 percent increase in fiscal third-quarter net profit yesterday, Karl-Johan Persson, chief executive of Hennes & Mauritz (H&M) said the Swedish fast fashion chain is stepping up expansion plans.

A Wall Street Journal article quoted Persson as saying that, “New interesting city locations keep coming up during the recession. We’re financially strong, so we can take advantage of these opportunities. We feel we can hit the gas pedal.”

Near term, that means raising the bar for 2009 new store openings from 225 to 240. Among H&M’s main targets are the U.S., U.K., Germany France, Spain, China and Japan, the article stated.

Restaurants In Rebound

With earnings season getting into full swing this week, investors are looking for signs that companies can grow their sales, not just fire workers to preserve profits. Consumers, who drive much of this country’s economic growth, have mostly stayed on the sidelines, though, thanks to high unemployment and continuing home foreclosures. Restaurants may be the place to look for hints of a consumer rebound as families decide where to start spending their extra cash again, says analyst Larry Miller of RBC Capital Markets.

The number of people who say they will spend more dining out has been on the rise, according to the bank, which surveys consumer sentiment and spending. This month the portion of respondents who say they will fork over more at restaurants climbed 1% from September to 12%, while the number planning to cut back dropped twice that to 33%. . . . more

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Low-priced Little Caesars pizza chain returns to R.I.

PROVIDENCE — Price-conscious consumers in 2008 began preparing more food at home and buying more takeout meals rather than sitting down to dinner in restaurants, boosting the prospects of operations that offer cheap eats.

That’s led to the return to the state of Little Caesars, a low-priced pizza chain that is taking advantage of the economic downturn.. . . more

Cross County Center Gets $135M Loan

YONKERS-The $225 million redevelopment of Cross County Shopping Center here has taken another major step as Brooks Shopping Center LLC has secured a $135 million first mortgage, said Dollar Land Associates LLC, Brooks’ owner.

The 5-year, fixed-rate loan at an undisclosed rate was arranged by Estreich & Company, Inc., and provided by a 50/50 partnership of Prudential and New York Life, James E. Stifel, Chief Investment Officer of New York City-based Benenson Capital Partners, LLC and a manager of Dollar Land Associates, told . . . more

Monday, October 19, 2009

Liquidating Lenders Manage 60% Recovery

NEW YORK CITY—Lenders that liquidate defaulted commercial mortgages are recovering an average of just under 60% of the balance of those loans, Real Capital Analytics says in a new report. The bigger picture rendered by the RCA report contains a few surprises, not least of which is the relationship between underwriting and the rate of recovery.

“It is reasonable to expect that the more conservatively a loan was underwritten, the higher its recovery rate upon resolution,” the report states. “However, the resolutions thus far in 2009 challenge the assumption that loans originated when lending standards were the loosest and property prices were the highest will suffer steeper losses.” In fact, mortgages from 2002 and earlier have a slightly lower RR than those originated in the irrational exuberance of 2006 and 2007, even though the more recent loans have a higher default rate, according to RCA. . . . more

Retail Sales Rebound Into Christmas

From Intel Corp. to TJX Cos., it’s beginning to look a lot like the retail holiday season will be happier than forecast.

Intel, the world’s biggest chipmaker, cited stronger consumer demand in projecting Oct. 13 that its sales in the fourth quarter would be $9.7 billion to $10.5 billion, compared with a $9.5 billion average prediction in a Bloomberg News survey. TJX, the Framingham, Massachusetts-based operator of clothing-store chains T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, raised its fourth-quarter comparable-sales estimate Oct. 8 to a gain of 3 percent to 5 percent from an increase of 2 percent to 4 percent. . . . more

Holiday forecast improves, but shoppers still wary

For most retailers, November and December are the make-or-break months. Many will know their fate as soon as the day after Thanksgiving.

So what's ahead for the 2009 holiday shopping season? The economic news points to a better year than 2008. An August Harris Poll reported that 46 percent of Americans believe the economy will improve in 2010, up from 34 percent in May. And the study showed a drop of 5 percentage points in those who believed the economy would get worse.

A separate study by the research firm Information Resources Inc. reported that consumers are less concerned about some basic economic issues. It cited a 20 percent drop in concerns about food prices, a 10 percent decline in worries about gasoline prices and a 9 percent decline in concern about utility expenses.. . . more

Michaels Opens First Manhattan Store

Michaels, North America's largest arts and crafts specialty retailer, sets a new standard in the category with its first Manhattan store featuring a unique new urban store design that focuses on providing creative inspiration with more than 30,000 products.

The Manhattan store is located in the new Columbus Square development at 808 Columbus Avenue at 97th Street. A weeklong grand opening celebration begins October 25, 2009 and includes free craft workshops, product demos, giveaways and a special appearance by Martha Stewart.. . . more

Walmart focuses on smaller format

Walmart is strengthening the management of its small Neighborhood Markets, the supermarket-style stores that represent a potential avenue for future growth as the expansion of its huge Supercenters slows.

The retailer is recruiting a new team of managers and buyers that will focus exclusively on the smaller stores, which, with just more than 150 locations, currently represent only a fraction of Walmart’s total US sales. It is also recruiting managers to develop staff training and store planning and performance systems that will “meet the unique needs of all small formats”.. . . more