Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Rite Aid pares 4Q loss without write-down

Drugstore chain Rite Aid Corp. says it cut its fourth-quarter loss compared to a year ago, when it took a $1.81 billion write-down.

The Camp Hill, Pa., company lost $210.6 million, or 24 cents per share, in three months ended Feb. 27. That compares with $2.3 billion, or $2.67 per share, a year ago. Revenue fell 4 percent to $6.46 billion from $6.71 billion as the company continued to close stores.. . . more

Swoozie's files for bankruptcy protection

Gifts and paper retailer Swoozie's Inc. sought bankruptcy protection Tuesday, indicating it was unable to repay or refinance its debt.

The Atlanta-based company, which has 43 stores in 15 states and 350 employees, filed Chapter 11 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court's Northern District of Georgia in Atlanta. It has less than$10 million in assets and between $10 million and $50 million in debt, according to the filing.. . . more

Charming Shoppes Closes More Stores

Charming Shoppes, the owner of the plus-sized women’s Lane Bryant, Fashion Buy and Catherines chains, will close between 100 and 120 underperforming stores this year, management revealed with its fourth-quarter results. The news comes as same-store sales dropped 12% during the period.

In the
last year, Charming Shoppes closed 152 stores. The company currently operates just over 2,100 units across the country.. . . more

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Borders faces Thursday deadline on credit facility

Borders Group Inc., faces a deadline Thursday to repay a $42.5 million loan from its largest investor, William Ackman's investment firm Pershing Square, the Associated Press said. Pershing Square holds an 18% stake in Borders.

Borders hasn't reported results for its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended Jan. 31. But it posted losses for each of the three previous quarters as its revenue fell. And it said in January that same-store holiday sales at Borders Superstores fell 14.6%. . . . more

Consumers slowly show signs of springing back

Signs of life in consumer spending are sprouting this spring. A partial rebound in consumer confidence, a positive report on January home prices and an expected strong March from retailers suggest Americans are cautiously perking up.

The Conference Board said Tuesday its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 52.5 in March, recovering about half of the nearly 11 points it lost in February. Analysts expected a reading of 50 for March, but the index is still far below the 90 reading that’s considered healthy.. . . more

Shoppers Emerging With Best Buy Sales Signal Revival

Companies from Saks Inc. to Best Buy Co. are growing more confident that the recent revival of consumer spending is more than just a blip.

New-York based Saks is “moving from defense to offense,” selectively rebuilding inventory and increasing investment as consumers “come out of their shell,” Stephen I. Sadove, chairman and chief executive officer of the luxury retailer, said in a March 24 e-mail. Same-store sales at Best Buy rose 7.4 percent in the U.S. during the fourth quarter, the Richfield, Minnesota-based electronic retailer said March 25.. . . more

Developers look to revive 'dying' Sagamore mall

Though there's still no word on what company will run it, developers of the Cape Cod Factory Outlet Mall say that a grocery store is still coming to Bourne. Plans for a 64,000-square-foot building to house the store have been approved by the town, said Bourne Town Planner Coreen Moore, but developer Cape Cod Windmill LLC has yet to reveal the mystery future tenant even to town administrators.

Moore said the company has dropped hints that the supermarket brand coming in does not have a location on Cape Cod.

"From what I hear, it's something that's not around here," she said, suggesting it would not be Stop & Shop or Shaw's.

If the plans are ultimately approved, the store would be Bourne's only major supermarket. Because the redevelopment project does not expand the existing building, it does not need Cape Cod Commission approval, Moore said. . . more

Talbots struggles to close merger loop

The Talbots Inc. has once again extended the deadline for a warrant-exchange offer that it needs to close before the company can pull the trigger on a planned $350 million private-equity-backed merger with BPW Acquisition Corp. . . . more

Walgreens cleared to acquire Duane Reade

Walgreen Co. announced Tuesday that it has received regulatory clearance from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission to complete its acquisition of Duane Reade Holdings.

Walgreens said it expects to complete the acquisition of New York City-based drug chain Duane Reade in early to mid-April.. . . more

Monday, March 29, 2010

Bulfinch and Agent Have Big Plans In Harvard Square

The leasing agent recently picked for what should become the first Harvard Square office building to be erected in 20 years has ambitious plans for the site.

The ground floor- or first two floors- of 114-116 Mt. Auburn St. could become an "Apple Store" or a Nike or Adidas landmark location, said Peter Bekarian, a senior vice president at Jones Lang LaSalle, which landed the highly desirable leasing contract.. . . more

Retailers finding ways to put buying power in shoppers' hands

In the brave new world of retailing, stores are going to be less concerned about what's in shoppers' wallets and more interested in what's on their mobile phones.

Retailers and a wave of start-up companies are rushing to create smart-phone and iPhone applications that let shoppers compare prices, redeem coupons, lend a friend $25, buy movie tickets and make dinner reservations, and even find the nearest bathroom in the mall.. . . more

Consumer Spending in U.S. Increases for Fifth Month

Consumer spending in the U.S. rose in February for a fifth consecutive month, a rebound that may accelerate when employment strengthens.

Growing demand means retailers such as Best Buy Co. may be able to sustain gains in profits even as Americans face rising foreclosures and a jobless rate that economists anticipate will be slow to retreat from the 26-year high reached last year. Household spending, which accounts for about 70 percent of the economy, may contribute more to the expansion in coming months.. . . more

Bankrupt General Growth nears plan filing

General Growth Properties Inc is getting closer to filing a bankruptcy exit plan, with its board planning to meet on Monday to give final approval to the proposal, sources familiar with the matter said.

The plan, which would have General Growth exit as a stand-alone company, is backed by three large investors -- Brookfield Asset Management, Fairholme Capital Management and William Ackman's Pershing Square Capital Management, the sources said on Sunday.. . . more

Friday, March 26, 2010

Bidding to rebuild that retail thrill

South Shore Plaza expands its range

Leslie Goldberg clasped her hands over her head as if to thank the shopping gods who brought her this moment, surrounded by designer shoes in the middle of the new Nordstrom at South Shore Plaza.

“I’ve been waiting for this,’’ Goldberg squealed at the company’s gala on Wednesday night.. . . more

Nordstrom opens to crowds in Braintree

About 800 people attended the opening of Nordstrom's South Shore Plaza store in Braintree, the high-end department store's fourth location in the state.

The three-story, 150,000-square foot store carries men, women, and children's clothing as well as shoes, jewelry, makeup and accessories. . . . more

Strong tenants continue to bolster District

Strong federal activity, growing interest on the part of Sovereign Wealth Funds and positive job creation are making the District and surrounding region the envy of the rest of the nation’s battered commercial real estate markets. However, attendees at the Washington RealShare Conference, held Tuesday at the Grand Hyatt, did not spend much time belaboring the obvious. Rather, panel after panel touched in one way or another on a fundamental question: when will real growth start to occur and what can we do to survive until it happens. The RealShare Conferences Series is produced by ALM's Real Estate Media Group. . . . more

TJX hacker sentenced to 20 years

Albert Gonzalez, the computer hacker who helped organize massive credit card thefts from TJX Cos., BJs Wholesale Club and other national retailers, was sentenced in federal court in Boston this afternoon to 20 years in prison, one of the longest sentences ever imposed for computer crime or identity theft.. . . more

Hedge fund suit threatens to delay Talbots deal

A hedge fund manager has sued to potentially delay The Talbots Co.’s pending private-equity backed merger, accusing the clothing retailer and its deal partner, BPW Acquisition Corp., of pressuring it to accept less-favorable terms for a previously agreed upon warrant-exchange offer. . . more

Combined Sears and Kmart still standing, but market share dwindles

This week marks the fifth anniversary for Sears and Kmart. On March 24, 2005, two of America's oldest retailers, with roots dating to the 19th century, tied the knot, for better or worse.

The combined company is still standing and profitable after the Great Recession, a feat of its own given how many retailers succumbed to the economic downturn.. . . more

Subway dishes up breakfast

Subway is joining the increasingly crowded breakfast scramble in a move that the sandwich chain hopes will help add customers and sales.

After years of testing, almost all of Subway's 23,000 U.S. restaurants will begin selling the meal on April 5. When they do, the nation's largest restaurant chain by number of outlets will be a big player in the breakfast game, which can be profitable if done right.. . . more

Michaels 4Q profit rises 32 percent

Arts and crafts retailer Michaels Stores Inc. reported a 32 percent increase in fourth-quarter profit and swung to a full-year profit as shoppers opened their wallets more during the holiday season.

Newly designed jewelry-making departments and more in-store baking and general craft classes are boosting sales. . . . more

Economy Grew at 5.6 Percent Pace at End of 2009

The burst of energy the economy showed at the end of last year isn't likely to be repeated anytime soon.

The Commerce Department reported Friday that the economy grew at a 5.6 percent pace in the October-to-December quarter in its third and final estimate of economic activity during the period.

Even though growth turned out to be a tad less than the government's prior two estimates for the quarter, the new reading still marked the strongest showing in six years. . . . more

Small Department Stores Go Upscale

The last 20 years have been a period of consolidation for many of America's most-beloved department stores. Some of the country's most famous independent chains -- I. Magnin, Wanamaker's and Bullock's -- have been acquired by larger rivals, such as Saks and Macy's. That brought the end to many hometown department stores.

The trend has given rise to the micro-department store. These small-scale retailers sell designer merchandise in chic locations usually in the epicenter of a city's most up-and-coming shopping areas. . . . more

Syms-Filene's Hybrid Store In Berlin, CT To Open April 15

Ten years after Filene's Basement left Corbins Corner, the brand that made bargain-hunting a contact sport is back.

Syms, a men's dress clothing
retailer, will split its floor space at its Berlin store between Syms' menswear and children's apparel and Filene's Basement products.. . . more

Would Best Buy Acquire RadioShack?

The New York Post reports that RadioShack could put itself up for sale and one potential buyer could be Best Buy. The reason Best Buy might show interest is because it has tested smaller stores and wants to make bigger waves in the wireless and handheld business, the paper asserts.

Other options for RadioShack include finding another buyer, or using its $900 million in cash to take on a major share buyback or undertake its own large acquisition of another outfit. Some, however, are skeptical that anyone would purchase RadioShack.. . . more

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Stores ready to launch at Hingham shipyard

Retail activity at the Hingham shipyard is proliferating as six major tenants will open for business over the next month.

North Carolina-based grocer Fresh Market plans to open a 23,500-square-foot store at The Launch at Hingham Shipyard on April 7.. . . more

Shaw’s will lay off 4% of workers

Shaw’s Supermarkets Inc. said yesterday that it plans to lay off 4 percent of its store associates in early April in an effort to stay competitive and make its stores more efficient. The move comes more than two weeks after hundreds of its workers went on strike across New England.

Shaw’s spokeswoman Judy Chong said the cutbacks will take effect on April 10 and include “some full-time retail positions’’ in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Vermont. But she declined to say how many employees would lose their jobs.. . . more
The Yankee Candle Co., a pioneer in the home-decor genre of premium scented candles, said it is gearing up to celebrate the opening of its 500th store.

The store will be located at the Square One Mall in Saugus, Deerfield-based Yankee Candle said in a press release, and a grand opening celebration is set for Monday morning. . . . more
Best Buy Co. beat Wall Street's view for profit and sales in its holiday quarter and forecast stronger-than-expected earnings in the current year.

Best Buy's net profit rose to $779 million, or $1.82 a share in the fourth quarter ended Feb. 27, up from $570 million, or $1.35 a share, a year earlier. Net revenue rose 12 percent to $16.55 billion.. . . more

Starbucks ready for growth again

Starbucks is ready to start opening cafes again after a couple years of cost cutting resulted in the closure of hundreds of locations. During its fiscal year, the company plans to add 100 US stores as well as 200 internationally.

Management has high expectations for improved sales growth as the economy recovers. Starbucks also declared its first dividend at its annual meeting of shareholders yesterday.. . . more

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Zale looking to Plan B for cash infusion

Zale Corp.'s plea for cash has attracted "at least a dozen serious proposals," and the board is reviewing a handful of offers, with plans to select one by late April, according to sources close to the situation.

The Irving-based jewelry retailer's board has rejected a proposal from Apollo Management LP that included the sale of its 679 Piercing Pagoda mall-based jewelry kiosks and its 212 Canadian stores. That proposal, led by former Zale chief executive Robert DiNicola, had the support of founding family member Donald Zale. . . . more

Saks Says Might Have To Shut Some Outlets

Department store chain Saks Inc has said the company might shut down some struggling outlets this year, as it looks to boost its margin levels. CEO Stephen Sadove said the upmarket chain may eventually close perennially loss-making outlets, but noted that any such closure would be “predicated on whether there is a lease coming due”. He added that “here are a few stores" that meet both criteria.

Later in the day, Saks said it was shutting its stores at a mall in downtown Portland, Oregon, as part of its strategy to focus on "our most productive stores”. The main store at the mall is set to close by 31 July, while its men's store should close in late April.. . . more

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

State to sell bonds for Somerville IKEA

Massachusetts is expected to sell $10.3 million in special obligation bonds this week to help finance the cost of infrastructure improvements surrounding the planned Ikea furniture store in Somerville’s Assembly Square.. . . more

Stein Mart Back in Black

After several years in the red, locally based Stein Mart Inc. says it is back in the black with net income up in both the fourth quarter and the fiscal year.

For the year ended Jan. 30, the company reported net income of $23.6 million, or 54 cents per diluted share, compared with a net loss of $71.3 million for its previous fiscal year. In the fourth quarter, the company reported net income $2.7 million, compared with a net loss of $56.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2008.. . . more

Walking Co to exit bankruptcy

U.S. shoe retailer Walking Co Holdings Inc said on Monday it is ready to emerge from bankruptcy protection as soon as April. The company, which filed for bankruptcy protection in December facing high rents and a difficult retail environment, said it has submitted a reorganization plan that will keep 207 of its 214 current store locations open and pay off all of its debts and future obligations to trade creditors.. . . more

Monday, March 22, 2010

Borders extends open invitation to book clubs

In the increasingly brutal book wars, Borders Group Inc. is learning what coffeehouses long have known: Encourage shoppers to think of you as a home away from home and they'll spend more, maybe even become regulars.

To spur that feeling, Borders quietly unveiled a program last month that invites book clubs to convene at its cafes instead of in members' homes. The step is geared toward helping the money-losing bookstore chain drum up sales and reshape itself into a local gathering place instead of a faceless superstore.. . . more

P&G Plots Growth Path Through Services

In Brand-Saturation Age, Major Marketers Turn to Franchising and Other Models

Procter & Gamble Co. got to be an $80 billion company and the world's-largest marketer almost entirely by selling goods, but it's increasingly looking to services ranging from concierge physicians to car washes and dry cleaners to fuel its thirst for growth.

a big thirst. When every percentage point of growth now requires around $800 million in new sales, P&G can't afford to leave many stones unturned, including service and franchising models. . . . more

Boston among healthiest commercial real estate markets

Greater Boston’s commercial real estate community appears to be among the healthiest in the country, in terms of the percentage of properties that have remained current on their debt payments.

As of this week, only 2.7 percent of the region’s property loans packaged in commercial mortgage backed securities (CMBS) were either delinquent or in various stages of foreclosure, according to Bloomberg data. . . . more

Simon Property Group readies new bid for General Growth Properties

Mall giant Simon Property Group Inc. is readying a sweetened takeover bid for rival General Growth Properties Inc, which is in bankruptcy court. The new offer would top one on the table from several General Growth investors and would resolve antitrust concerns that may arise from the proposed combination, The Wall Street Journal reported. General Growth, which has more than 200 mall properties, is the nation's No. 2 mall owner, after Simon, which owns 321 U.S. retail properties.. . . more

Syms hires chief for co-branding

Discount clothing chain Syms Corp. has brought in a former president of the Century 21 off-price stores to oversee the blending of the Syms and Filene’s Basement divisions.

Joel Feigenbaum has been hired as chief integration officer and will head the Filene’s Basement division and be responsible for opening co-branded Syms and Filene’s Basement stores.

"Integrating 100-year-old Filene’s Basement with 50-year-old Syms is an unprecedented opportunity to leverage the strength of two beloved brands," Feigenbaum said in a statement Friday.. . . more

Target to offer mobile coupons

Using your cellular phone during checkout at Target could soon earn you discounts.

Starting Wednesday, the giant retailer will allow customers to take advantage of special mobile-coupon offers on their handsets.

The coupon is redeemed when the bar code on the phone is scanned at checkout. Offers are good only once and expire on the dates listed.. . . more

Dollar Stores, Fast Food to Add Space in 2010

Dollar General Corp., Saks Inc.’s Off 5th and Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. are among the discounters and fast-food chains set to expand in 2010 as U.S. consumers embrace a “new frugality,” according to commercial property broker Colliers International.

Low-cost restaurants and retailers, including Papa John’s International Inc. and TJX Cos., are planning to add stores following the loss of more than 4 million U.S. jobs last year and a reduction in consumer spending, Boston-based Colliers said today in its 2010 “Retail Trends & Opportunities” report. . . . more

Friday, March 19, 2010

Analysts see Wal-Mart's price cuts hurting grocers

If Wal-Mart Stores Inc. lowers prices on grocery items in its stores, as anticipated, it could extend the price wars among grocers, analysts said Thursday.

Wal-Mart management recently said that the retailer is prepared to roll out a new round of price reductions, although the details are still unclear.. . . more

2010 Retail Store Closings: U.S. Retailers Downsizing or Going Out of Business

Even though Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke declared that the recession was over for the U.S. on September 15, 2009, the effects of the recession for the U.S. retail industry will extend beyond the technical indicators and well into 2010.

What follows is a complete, updated, and ongoing list of retail chains that are closing stores, downsizing their chains, or going out of business in calendar year 2010. . . . more

Sizing Up Property, Mall Stores Try to Shrink

Retailers have a new strategy to increase profits: shrink to fit.

For two decades, mall-based apparel companies saturated the market, aggressively adding more stores and building them bigger. Chastened by the recession, however, retailers including Gap Inc. and AnnTaylor Stores Corp. are poring over their holdings, looking for stores they can cut down to size. . . . more

A new chapter for Barnes & Noble

Faced with declining sales, big bookseller hopes new CEO will help it turn the page

Book giant Barnes & Noble Inc., in the midst of a heated stock ownership battle with Los Angeles billionaire investor Ron Burkle, announced a major shake-up of its top management.

The world's largest bookseller said Thursday that it was replacing Chief Executive Steve Riggio with William Lynch, the head of its online division, in a move many saw as a sign that the company was embracing the changing nature of the book business.. . . more

Lower heights, rising frustration

Boston officials yesterday unveiled new height guidelines for the city skyline along the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway that would allow only modest-size buildings closer to the waterfront and a few skyscrapers at inland locations where they would not overshadow public parks or Boston Harbor.

The proposed rules establish a framework for future development that would occur along the Greenway. City officials identified 19 properties in the corridor from South to North stations that could be redeveloped, adding in total 5 million square feet of new stores, offices, hotels and residences. I. . . more

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Here's the beef: Papa's brings back the burger

Papa Gino’s Inc. has revived its line of burgers after over a decade of featuring burger-free fare, the pizza chain said on Wednesday.. . . more

Joe's American returns to Newbury Street

Joe’s American Bar & Grill has opened up a new location on Newbury Street, just up the street from its old Newbury location, the restaurant said Wednesday.. . . more

Old Navy stores go under the knife

This spring, Old Navy is putting its stores under the knife with a "racetrack" layout and value wall.

Since Old Navy was founded, the stores have not undergone a wholesale remodel. Gap expects to spend $575 million on capital expenditures in 2010, including the Old Navy store changes.Old Navy remodeled 50 stores last year and will do 200 more this year, for about a quarter of its 1,000-plus stores. . . . more

One Brigham Circle trades hands

New Boston Fund has sold the One Brigham Circle mixed-use complex in Boston to AEW Capital Management.

Partners HealthCare Systems is the primary tenant of One Brigham Circle, occupying 123,000 square feet of office space on a long-term lease. Partners is a group of teaching hospitals affiliated with nearby Harvard Medical School and Brigham Women's Hospital. Retail tenants at the development include Stop & Shop and Walgreen's. Occupancy was 98 percent at the time of closing.. . . more

Mass. unemployment rate is unchaged at 9.5%

The Massachusetts unemployment rate of 9.5 percent in February was unchanged from January, the Massachusetts Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development reported today.

Bay State numbers track with the national unemployment rate, which at 9.7 percent also was unchanged from January to February, the office said. . . . more

Consumer Prices in U.S. Unchanged as Fuel Decreases

The cost of living in the U.S. was unchanged in February, underscoring the Federal Reserve’s forecast that inflation will remain low as the economy recovers.

The consumer-price index didn’t increase for the first time since a decrease in March 2009, and followed a 0.2 percent gain in January, Labor Department figures showed today in Washington.. . . more

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Hanover Rejuvenates $563M Redevelopment in Worcester, MA

A subsidiary of the Hanover Insurance Group Inc. is signing a purchase-and-sale agreement with Berkley Investments, Inc. to become the developer of the stagnating CitySquare project, according to the Telegram & Gazette. Berkley had taken on the $563-million redevelopment six years ago, but progress has stalled during the recession. Berkley is set to retain two of the office towers and a parking garage. . . . more

Retailers Feeling Gutsy

National chains plan a huge number of store openings even though closures remain high.

Pretty soon Americans will notice one other sign of an economic rebound: hundreds of new Quiznos Sub shops, Dollar General outlets and Anytime Fitness gyms, along with more of the already-ubiquitous Starbucks, Subways and 7-Elevens.

Retailers have been scaling back their expansion plans since late 2008 with some companies scrapping their entire U.S. strategies but recent months have seen those decreases level off. . . . more

Investors’ Outlook Turns Positive in Q1

For the first time in about two years, commercial real estate investors responding to the PricewaterhouseCoopers/Korpacz quarterly survey are looking at the future with a sense of optimism. That more upbeat attitude prevails as they acknowledge that many challenges remain, PwC’s Susan Smith tells

"Investors feel that they’ve turned the corner and they can see the light at the end of the tunnel—it’s just that the tunnel is very long," says Smith, director of PwC’s real estate advisory practice and editor of the survey. . . . more

A look at restaurant industry same-store sales

Nearly all public restaurant companies reported fourth-quarter same-store sales results this month, and winter storms and lingering economic pressures pushed most into negative territory. Some, mainly because of value messaging, moved in a positive direction.

For the fourth quarter, or the quarter ended closest to December for companies on a non-calendar fiscal year, quick-service chains on average posted a larger same-store sales decline than any other restaurant industry segment. Quick-service chains were hurt by rising unemployment as well as comparisons with a year earlier when sales trends for fast food were still stable.. . . more

Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group weighs new General Growth bid

Simon Property Group Inc. is considering raising its $10 billion buyout offer for rival shopping mall owner General Growth Properties Inc. as early as this week, two people familiar with the matter said.

Indianapolis-based Simon sent a letter to General Growth this week saying it anticipates boosting its offer above that of a proposal put forth by General Growth and three of its largest stakeholders, the people said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.. . . more

Something old, something new

Filene’s Basement, Syms are bringing back automatic markdown, adding e-commerce site

Shoppers may not see a new Filene’s Basement in Downtown Crossing anytime soon, but the store’s famed automatic markdown system is making a comeback this year.

Filene’s Basement is planning by the fall to roll out a new version of the concept, which provides deeper discounts on items the longer they remain unsold, to the entire chain and its sister company, Syms. . . . more

Studios may tighten credit on Blockbuster, force bankruptcy

Blockbuster's credit may be no good in Hollywood anymore.

Major studios are looking to cut off credit for the DVD renter and retailer, which could potentially push the struggling company into bankruptcy.

Blockbuster disclosed the looming threat in its annual report, filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday.. . . more

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Turning tweets into sales

Twitter’s allure is tough to translate into dollars, though Dunkin’ Donuts is tracking results

Twitter represents a gold mine of marketing possibilities, but the vast majority of firms haven’t figured out how to transform those 140-character tweets into sales.. . . more

Hhgregg to further expand in Baltimore

Hhgregg plans to open a store in Bel Air, Md., adding to the retailer’s plans to open four stores in Greater Baltimore. The lease sizes of the five new locations range from 30,323 sq. ft. in Towson .. . more

Retailers' weekly sales rise 3.2%

Chain-store sales for the week ended March 13 rose 3.2% 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 fell 0.4%.

"Despite the wrath of Mother Nature in the Northeast, consumers were not deterred in unleashing a little of their own pent-up demand, especially early in the week-which helped to offset the weekend weather drag on sales," said Michael Niemira, ICSC's chief economist. . . . more

Dunkin' Donuts opened 171 new U.S. stores in 2009

Dunkin' Donuts said Monday that it opened 171 new stores in the United States last year.

The chain said it is working for greater exposure in the markets it already serves and also entered a few new markets such as Louisville, Ky.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Dayton, Ohio.. . . more

Darden sees potential for 1,000 more units

Darden Restaurants Inc. president and chief operating officer Andrew Madsen laid out a plan last week that calls for more growth for the casual-dining company, to the tune of more than 1,000 additional units.

Orlando-based Darden, which operates nearly 1,800 restaurants under six brands, the largest of which include Olive Garden and Red Lobster, has been one of the best performers in the casual-dining space during the long economic downturn. It most recently upped its annual sales and earnings guidance on signs of stronger customer traffic trends.. . . more

Easter a Warm Welcome for Shoppers and Retailers

Traditionally seen as the kickoff to spring, Easter couldn’t come at a better time this year for Americans eager to say goodbye to winter. According to NRF’s 2010 Easter Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, holiday celebrants will spend slightly more this year with the average person expected to shell out $118.60, up from $116.59 last year. Total spending is expected to reach $13.03 billion.

While spending on most items will remain the same as last year, children can expect more jelly beans, flavored marshmallows and even gifts in their Easter baskets this year. . . . more

Wal-Mart readies next round of grocery price cuts

Wal-Mart wants to woo more shoppers to its grocery aisles, according to one industry analyst, who expects the retail giant to get more aggressive on price cuts in order to put the pressure on traditional grocers.

Wal-Mart is "lacing up the gloves as it prepares to step back into the ring and win the modern day price war in food retail," Citigroup analyst Deborah Weinswig wrote in a research note Monday. . . . more

Monday, March 15, 2010

Williams-Sonoma to shutter more stores in large markets

Williams-Sonoma will continue to close stores in large, multi-store markets, according to a report on Thursday by the Wall Street Journal. CFO Sharon McCollam told the Journal that it will shutter the stores as part of its quest to return its brick-and-mortar operations to past levels of profitability.. . . more

Intersecting with success

Real estate experts say finding the perfect spot for a store means pinning down the place where the hard numbers crisscross with the idiosyncrasies of consumers

When searching for a great location, retailers have a lot to think about. On some issues, like traffic and parking, they can get quantifiable data. They may also consider consumer psychology. For example, when studying the area surrounding a prospective site, many retailers “draw the line at the railroad tracks. I'm not sure why, but railroad tracks are a psychological barrier,” said Steve Ewbank, executive vice president of Planned Community Developers, residential/commercial developers based in Sugar Land.

The late Robert Onstead, a founder of Randalls, felt the same way about freeways, Ewbank said.
He had a Randalls at Murphy Road at U.S. 59, Ewbank recalled.

“He couldn't get people to cross under the freeway overpass,” and he closed the store.

“Onstead used to say, ‘You pay for a good site one time. You pay for a bad site every day.' ”. . . more

French Connection sells Nicole Farhi; slims in U.S.

British fashion group French Connection is selling its loss-making Nicole Farhi brand and closing most of its U.S. stores, completing a restructuring aimed at returning it to profitability.

The group, which has previously exited businesses in Japan and Northern Europe, said on Monday its after tax losses widened to 24.9 million pounds ($37.8 million) in the year to Jan. 31, from a loss of 16.4 million in the previous year.. . . more