Thursday, April 29, 2010

"Follow Us on Facebook"

The title of this article is a phrase that has become ubiquitous to a degree that is almost startling. Despite the fact that many people in many industries (I openly include myself) have yet to figure out exactly how it all works and how best to use it, companies of all sizes and sorts are rushing to “social networking” or “social media” with a frenzy unmatched since the very advent of the internet.

This frenzy over the usefulness – indeed, the absolute necessity - of a social media strategy for essentially any kind of business has been trumpeted lately in all manner of headlines and articles in both mainstream and industry news: . . more

Wal-Mart Thinks Smaller

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. became the largest retailer by building sprawling stores in suburbs and rural towns. But now it is exploring opening a number of small outposts to penetrate the nation's cities and fight the spread of no-frills grocery chains, which are luring away some of its core customers.

Wal-Mart declined to discuss the details or timing of its new strategy, but Chief Executive Mike Duke stated in the introduction to the company's annual report last week that U.S. growth will be fueled by "innovative new formats.". . . more

Panera Bread License Granted in Braintree

A new Panera Bread Bakery-Cafe should open at Braintree Five Corners in late June, a company official said. On Tuesday, the town license board granted a restaurant license for the business, which will be at 400 Franklin St.

“It seemed like a great fit for us to get into the community,” said Gregg Godfrey of Panera Bread.. . . more

Whole Foods plan stirs uproar in Wellesley

Despite vocal opposition, the Wellesley Town Meeting authorized selectmen Tuesday to negotiate a lease for town-owned land that would allow Whole Foods to replace Star Market and a family-owned restaurant.

Many Town Meeting members said removing Star Market from Wellesley is unfair to families who are on a fixed income or cannot afford the specialty items sold at Whole Foods.. . . more

Family Dollar sets sights on home to appeal to better-income shoppers

Discount chain Family Dollar is refining its discretionary offerings, including its home assortment, to hang on to a growing roster of better-income shoppers.

Howard Levine, chairman and ceo, told analysts during his presentation at Barclays Capital Retail and Restaurants Conference today that chain is “increasing our investments to broaden the appeal of our assortments, improve the in-store shopping experience, and increase the effectiveness of our workforce” in an effort to expand its share of the market.. . . more

Is retail development picking up?

In a retail climate often described as a veritable desert for new developments, there have been recent signs of life. David Sobelman, Executive Vice President of Calkain Companies, has observed that in high credit tenants, there has been a relatively unnoticed trend in developments.

Below he answers five questions relating to this trend:. . . more

Fewer people feel guilty about wealth

Fewer wealthy Americans feel guilty about making luxury-goods purchases and more of them are proud to be recognized as rich, a survey showed.

Forty-five percent of those polled felt guilt buying those products compared with 54 percent a year ago, according to a survey released yesterday by American Express Publishing and research company Harrison Group. . . .more

Restaurants ready to hire more workers

Restaurant operators expect to do more hiring in the second quarter of this year, another sign that the industry may be climbing its way out of the economic slump, according to data in the latest People Report Workforce Index.

More than 40 percent of companies surveyed by People Report plan to add both hourly and management staff in current second quarter, while just 4 percent plan to cut hourly workers and 6 percent plan to reduce management staff, the Workforce Index reported.. . . more

Syms Corp widens Q4 loss despite sales surge

Despite more than doubling its fourth quarter sales, off-price apparel retailer SymsCorp has posted a wider loss for the period.

Sales
for the three months to 27 February, however, soared 113.6% to $115.4m, up from $54.0m last time. . . . more

OfficeMax profit almost doubles

No. 3 U.S. office-supplies chain OfficeMax Inc. said Thursday that its first-quarter profit almost doubled, aided by higher sales of store brands and improved demand in the U.S. and Mexico markets.

U.S. sales have declined so far in the second quarter. OfficeMax expects to continue facing near-term headwinds from challenging macroeconomic conditions, such as U.S. unemployment trends, with these trends beginning to work in its favor toward the latter part of the year. . . . more

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Eastern Massachusetts Retail Real Estate Report Preview

Our KeyPoint Report on the Retail Real Estate Market for Eastern Massachusetts/Greater Boston will be released soon. Below are a few of the salient findings from the study:

Well, while not quite as bad as 2008, 2009 was not far behind. The most glaring revelation in 2008 was the dramatic rise in vacancy: unoccupied retail space in Eastern Massachusetts increased by an extraordinary 3.0 million square feet, or 23.9 percent, the largest percentage climb since KeyPoint Partners began reporting annual data back in the mid 90s. After finishing 2008 with 15.6 million square feet of vacancy, equating to an 8.5 percent vacancy rate, we wondered how much worse things could get. Unfortunately, vacancy is once again the headline of our report. . . . more

RadioShack Profits From Mobiles, But Best Buy And Rivals Loom

Long-troubled RadioShack, aka “The Shack,” posted higher than expected profits for the past quarter. It attributed the success to a new focus on mobile phones, but RadioShack will need to do a lot more to sustain those profits.

Focusing on cell phones seems to be paying off for RadioShack. The electronics retailer’s first-quarter profit rose 16% to beat analysts’ expectations, thanks to sales of cell phone handsets and prepaid wireless services.. . . more

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Consumer confidence soars to 18-month high

A key measure of consumer confidence jumped to its highest level in 18 months, according to a report released Tuesday.

The Conference Board, a New York-based business research group, said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index rose to 57.9 in April. That's up from a downwardly revised 52.3 in March.. . . more

Wal-Mart Is Said To Be Interested In NYC For New Store

New York City may be the next target for Wal-Mart Stores Inc. as it tries to build urban beach-heads.

The world's largest retailer, long rebuffed by big cities, is said to be scouting Gotham locations, including a shopping center near Jamaica Bay in Brooklyn called Gateway II.

Wal-Mart does not have "a project to announce anywhere within the five boroughs of New York City," said Steven Restivo, the retailer's director of community affairs. "However, we know that New Yorkers want to shop and work at Wal-Mart and as a result, we continue to evaluate potential opportunities here." . . . . more

Retailers' weekly sales rise 5.5%: survey

Chain-store sales for the week ended April 24 rose 5.5% 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 inched up 0.2%, the sixth straight weekly gain.

"Sales continued to improve over the latest week, helped by robust customer traffic, especially at discounters, department and apparel stores," said Michael Niemira, ICSC's chief economist. . . . more

FTC suit accuses Talbots of illegal telemarketing

The Federal Trade Commission yesterday accused the Hingham clothing retailer of making at least 3.4 million telemarketing calls in 2009 for its Talbots and J. Jill brands that violated federal law intended to protect consumers against intrusive telemarketing.

In a lawsuit filed in US District Court yesterday, the commission alleged that the prerecorded sales pitches, made between February and July, violated federal telemarketing rules that make it easy for recipients to stop receiving such marketing calls.. . . more

GGP Confirms Adjournment to May 4 of Hearing on Motion Related to Bidding Process

General Growth Properties, Inc. today confirmed the hearing to consider the process for securing an emergence transaction for the Company – previously scheduled for Thursday, April 29, 2010 – will be adjourned to May 4, 2010. The adjournment will allow the Company to continue discussions with its Committees and other parties concerning the full range of offers, proposals and commitments received and complete its assessment thereof. . . . more

Despite revenue loss, Taubman sees retail upswing

Bloomfield Hills-based mall owner Taubman Centers Inc. reported a 3.9 percent decrease in quarterly revenue Friday, but the company said there are signs that the retail market will improve this year, with Michigan and Florida, two states most hurt by the recession, already reporting strong gains.

Total revenues for the quarter were $151.49 million, down from $157.69 million in the same quarter last year, but "the retail environment is improving," CEO, President and Chairman Robert Taubman said in a conference call today.. . . more

Behind the Louis move

As retailer reopens on Fan Pier, owners in legal battle over Back Bay building

In public, Debi Greenberg sounded like a brave urban pioneer making a beeline to the future. She was taking her famously high-end Newbury Street clothing store, LouisBoston, out of the stodgy old Back Bay and relocating to the edgy South Boston Waterfront, a district more a theory than an actual neighborhood yet.

But behind the scenes, leaving the Back Bay is proving not so easy. . . . more

Monday, April 26, 2010

Is Redbox worth the wait?

Redbox and Hollywood finally made nice last week, but their arrangement may wind up hurting the movie kiosk company more than it helps it.

Coinstar's Redbox inked a deal last week with Universal Studios and 20th Century Fox that finally puts an end to an almost year-long dispute over the supply and rental of new DVD releases. Under the agreement, the movie studios will supply Redbox with ample DVDs to stock their kiosks. But Redbox will have to wait 28 days after the movies' initial DVD release to get them. . . . more

Union Urges Supervalu to Return to Table

The union representing striking workers at a Shaw’s distribution center here urged its members to call Craig Herkert, the chief executive officer of Supervalu, Friday to demand a resolution.

Minneapolis-based Supervalu, which owns Shaw’s, has terminated health benefits for the striking workers and is advertising for and hiring replacement workers, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 791 said. . . . more

Mall of America in Bloomington changes aimed at luxury buyers

The Mall of America is getting a $5 million facelift in an audacious bet that luxury shopping is on its way back.

On the two floors between Macy's and Bloomingdale's along the mall's south side, worn carpet will give way to Italian porcelain tile. Ceilings will get five Swarovski crystal chandeliers, each weighing a half ton and stretching 22 feet in length. Elevators and walkway lights will be trimmed in marble, and even the second-floor bridges will get a makeover.. . . more

Sears website offers thousands of stores

Real-estate push seeks revenue from empty or underused properties

Sears Holdings Corp. is jumping into the commercial real-estate market in hopes of extracting more cash from its vast network of Sears and Kmart stores.

The retailer has spent the past several months putting together an in-house team of real-estate experts to find a way to make its chain of department and discount stores more productive. Sears expanded the effort in March by quietly setting up shop online under the moniker SHC Realty.. . . more

Friday, April 23, 2010

Sandwich chain Which Wich tops fastest-growing restaurant survey

The fast-casual sandwich chain Which Wich is the fastest-growing restaurant chain in the United States, according to a new report by Chain Store Guide, Tampa, Fla.

The report, “Top 50 Fastest Growing Chain Restaurant Operators in the United States and Canada,” is based on a company’s growth relative to its status five years go. Dallas-based Which Wich, founded in 2003, has opened more than 90 new restaurants since 2006, with locations as far afield as Washington; Georgia; Texas; and Illinois.. . . more

Sears Holdings to open in-store golf shops

Sears Holdings has announced a multi-year agreement with Edwin Watts Golf Shops, one of the world's largest specialty golf retailers, to establish the first U.S. based "store-within-a-store" retail model for the golf industry. As a result, Edwin Watts will open 12 new service-oriented golf shops inside of existing Sears stores in key locations nationwide, the company reported.
The first Edwin Watts Golf Shop is scheduled to open in the Murray, Utah Sears location by May 31, and will be followed by openings at Sears store locations in Hicksville, N.Y.; Falls Church, Va, and Friendswood, Texas. Following the initial openings, eight additional Edwin Watts Golf Shops are slated to open at Sears store locations in Maryland, Illinois, New York, Florida and Kentucky. . . . more

As consumers get more optimistic, they go shopping

Cheryl Stewart got laid off a year ago, so she and her husband slowed their spending. Recently, she started buying clothes and redecorating her daughter's room, and is preparing to buy furniture.

She's on a budget, but the Baltimore mother of two says though she is still not working, she's simply tired of "denying myself for so long.". . . more

Sears shops out vast inventory of commercial real estate

Sears Holdings Corp. is jumping into the commercial real estate market in hopes of extracting more cash from its vast network of Sears and Kmart stores.

The retailer has spent the past several months putting together an in-house team of real estate experts to find a way to make its chain of department and discount stores more productive. Sears expanded the effort in March by quietly setting up shop online under the moniker SHC Realty, the Chicago Tribune has learned.. . . more

Brookfield, Simon Spar Over Fees, Anti-Trust

Simon Property Group again Thursday reached out to General Growth, based here, to proclaim its bailout offer as better than a competing plan by Brookfield Asset Management. Brookfield had also pitched its side to GGP, keeping the shoving match going as investors line up and pick a side to support.

Simon, which also filed an objection in GGP’s bankruptcy case Thursday, said it has been joined by Paulson & Co., ING Clarion Real Estate Securities, Oak Hill Advisors, RREEF and Taconic Capital Advisors, which have committed to invest a combined $2.1 billion in GGP. . . . more

Thursday, April 22, 2010

A Sustainable Recovery Is Around the Corner

The national economy is on its way toward a sustainable recovery, according to the Spring 2010 Economic Outlook report released by Jones Lang LaSalle. A slight uptick in employment and an expected 3% gain in GDP, has executives at the Chicago-based company seeing a light at the end of this three-year tunnel.

“Commercial real estate fundamentals will continue to remain weak for most of 2010 before widespread stabilization and an initial recovery take hold in 2011,” according to the report. . . .more

Mom Second Only to Winter Holidays

Having spent slightly more on Valentine’s Day, Easter and even St. Patrick’s Day this year, consumers are continuing the trend and will spend a little bit more on mommy dearest as well. Behind the winter holidays (Christmas, Hanukah and Kwanza), Mother’s Day is the second largest U.S. consumer spending holiday. NRF’s 2010 Mother’s Day Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey, conducted by BIGresearch, found the average person will shell out $126.90 on Mother’s Day gifts, compared to $123.89 last year. Total spending is expected to reach $14.6 billion.*. . . more

Simon again sweetens offer for General Growth

Simon Property Group said today it has improved the terms of its April 14 agreement to recapitalize rival shopping mall developer General Growth Properties.

The Indianapolis real estate company said it will commit an additional $1.5 billion to General Growth to help it emerge from reorganization bankruptcy.. . . more

Zale Said to Plan Sale of Minority Stake to Golden Gate Capital

Zale Corp., the third-largest U.S. jeweler, plans to sell a minority stake to Golden Gate Capital Corp., according to two people familiar with the decision.

Golden Gate’s offer was selected over proposals from Centerbridge Capital Partners LLC and TPG, said the people, who declined to be identified before an announcement. The companies will enter into exclusive talks, the people said. A transaction may still fall apart.. . . more

Five Below to open 40 new stores by year-end

Tween and teen favorite Five Below announced Monday that it will open six stores in the Greater Cleveland area as part of a chain-wide expansion that includes 40 new stores by year-end.

The Cleveland locations are scheduled to open in June, and are part of an aggressive growth plan by the 105-store retailer to approximately double its size during the next two years. Averaging 7,500 sq. ft. each, the stores are primarily in regional open-air centers alongside Target, Walmart and other major anchors.. . . more

Fuddruckers parent files bankruptcy, to be sold

Magic Brands LLC, the parent of the Fuddruckers and Koo Koo Roo restaurant chains, filed for bankruptcy protection on Wednesday and said it had agreed to sell most of its assets to Tavistock Group for $40 million.

The Austin, Texas-based company said it planned to close 24 Fuddruckers restaurants it operates by April 30 as part of the Chapter 11 reorganization process.. . . more

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Best Buy closing down at Independence Mall, opening up at Colony Place

The Best Buy electronics store at the Independence Mall in Kingston is moving to the nearby Colony Place shopping center in Plymouth.The relocation will be the latest in a series of moves from the mall to the outdoor shopping center down the road and across the town line.

The Best Buy store will move into the former Circuit City space, next to La-Z-Boy furniture. A Best Buy representative confirmed that the company will close its mall location and reopen in Colony Place in the fall. . . more

The Fresh Market Opens First Massachusetts Store

The Fresh Market opened its first specialty grocery store in Massachusetts earlier this month.

Located in The Launch at Hingham Shipyard in Hingham, Mass., the 23,500-square-foot store features a bakery that produces 30 breads and 12 varieties of pies daily, a full-service meat counter with freshly ground beef, ready-to-serve entrées, fresh seafood and more than 200 imported and domestic cheeses, as well as a produce department with more than 400 items and a large organic selection.. . . more

Dave and Buster's chain expresses interest in Burlington

Dave and Buster’s, a restaurant and entertainment chain, has expressed interested in building a 35,000 square foot venue in Burlington.

At a recent Selectmen meeting, representatives from the restaurant outlined a proposal for a new restaurant and entertainment facility at the former site of Burlington Dodge, 90 Middlesex Turnpike. The facility, which would be built from the ground-up, would be energy efficient and cost about $12 million, said Andrew Upton, attorney for Dave and Buster’s. . . . more

Retailers, restaurants offer deals as more of us pinch pennies

America has become a nation of penny pinchers.

The economic
meltdown was the 500-pound catalyst, but even amid signs the economy is picking up, many of us still are pinching away. It's a trend that analysts say reflects a seismic — and perhaps lasting — change in our spending habits, and retailers are responding. . . . more

JC Penney to add 75 stores within five years

J.C. Penney Co. plans to reverse its three-year sales decline and increase revenue by $5 billion by 2014, management said Tuesday at the Plano-based retailer's annual analyst and investor meeting.

About $3 billion of the additional revenue will come from existing stores, $1 billion from 75 new stores and $1 billion from the Internet, said chief financial officer Bob Cavanaugh. He also forecast profit of $5 a share in five years, up from $1.07 a share last year. . . . more

In Staples’ ledger, hints of recovery

Office supply sales reflect a broader trend

Among the signs of economic recovery, consider the sale of pens at Staples.

A year ago, the inexpensive stick pens were in demand as businesses sought to cut costs any way they could. Today, the more expensive rollerball pen is the item of choice, as penny-pinching gives way to, if not extravagance, at least a return to prerecession tastes.. . . more

Bankers Prepare for Increase in Retail REOs

Commercial real estate lenders have prolonged dealing with distressed loans for close to two years. But they may no longer be able to remain passive.

Speakers
at the Bankers Forum on Distressed Properties and Real Estate Loan Workouts, which took place in New York City on Apr. 19 and 20, said they are seeing the amount of distressed retail property continue to grow. In spite of a recent spike in retail sales, the leasing market remains challenging and retail property NOIs continue to fall. . . . more

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

CMBS Defaults to Top 11% This Year

CMBS loan defaults will continue rising throughout 2010, topping 11% by year’s end, Fitch Ratings said Tuesday. The agency also notes that in 2009, multifamily loans did not generate the highest number of new defaults, with that distinction now going to the retail sector.

"Fourth-quarter default rates reached their highest-ever levels both in principal balance and number of loans with no clear signs of stabilization," Fitch managing director Mary MacNeill says in a release. . . . more

The Meat House to Open 20 Stores

Seven years after opening their first store in Portsmouth, N.H., The Meat House's founding partners Justin Rosberg and Jason Parent officially launched a franchise development program in February. Already, The Meat House has territory agreements in place for more than 125 stores in 11 states, with another 100 stores in six other states currently under consideration.

To date, The Meat House has 11 company-owned stores and seven franchise locations. Within the next year, The Meat House expects demand for its franchise model will catapult the brand's annual revenue from $18 million to more than $100 million. . . . more

U.S. Chain-Store Sales +5%

U.S. weekly chain store sales improved 4.6 percent on a comparable store basis, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers and Goldman Sachs. The week-to-week sales comparisons though remained flat.

“Helped by seasonably warm temperatures for the week, customer traffic—especially at department and apparel-specialty stores—improved over the same week of the prior year,” said Michael Niemira, ICSC director of research and chief economist. . . . more

Retailers pinning hopes on edgy tween fashions

This back-to-school season isn't going to be just about T-shirts and jeans.

Tweens will be enticed by new skeggings (leggings with a skirt attached) and jeggings (denim leggings with a snap and fly) and celebrity-backed brands that speak to them. . . . more

Fairway Opens in Pelham Manor, NY

Imagine my horror, having been invited to a 10 am press event scheduled before the general opening of Fairway Pelham Manor, to get stuck in Hutch traffic at 9:50 , behind a vast mob heading to the Pelham Manor store. Worse, though the doors were slated to open after the press event, we found ourselves patrolling the lot for a space through regular customers—the public hoi polloi, mind you—- wandering out with Fairway bags. O the outrage – we wanted to deflower that virgin store ourselves!. . . more

Retail's rising star

When a thunderstorm pelts the suburbs of Washington, D.C., there aren't many places where you can practice your golf swing.

But Richard Cottingham, a 46-year-old auto mechanic and self-described golf nut, knows one of them: Recently he was happily pounding balls into a video simulator at a Dick's Sporting Goods store near Dulles airport.. . . more

Bedford welcomes revived Kohl's building plan

A wrecking ball may soon knock the Bedford Mall out of its economic slump, with a new proposal to demolish the northern half of the building and construct a Kohl's to anchor the plaza.

The project proposal, which went before the planning board last night, is similar to a plan presented to the board in February 2009. Bedford Planning Director Rick Sawyer said architectural concerns and other economic factors probably put that project on hold, though he is optimistic about the new proposal.. . . more

Supervalu Moves to 4Q Profit on Cost Cuts

Cost cuts helped grocer Supervalu Inc. return to a fiscal fourth-quarter profit. But the operator of Albertsons, Save-A-Lot and other stores gave a 2011 earnings outlook below analysts' estimates.

Supervalu is in the midst of a turnaround effort. When the recession hit, the grocer struggled, as it was slow to respond to shoppers' new demands and sharpening price competition. Since then it has brought in new leadership, cut costs and focused on lower prices and its discount Save-A-Lot stores.. . . more

Discounters are helping fill D.C. shopping vacancies

Discount retailers, including Nordstrom Rack, Wal-Mart, Forman Mills, AJ Wright and Hobby Lobby, are moving more aggressively into the Washington region, leasing space vacated by Circuit City and other stores that went out of business, according to real estate research firm Delta Associates.

The region is No. 1 in median household income and in the growth of jobs during the past 10 years, characteristics that are attractive to national retail chains seeking to expand.. . . more

Monday, April 19, 2010

Neiman Marcus Tests Discount Concept

Neiman Marcus is testing a discount retail concept for aspirational shoppers who fled the luxury chain when the financial crisis hit in 2008.

The 11,000-square-foot test store, part of the retail company’s Last Call clearance division, opened April 2 at Inwood Village, a popular outdoor shopping complex next to the wealthy University Park section of Dallas. . . . more

D.C. area retail is No. 1 in U.S.

The Washington area has the strongest retail economy of any major urban market in the nation, despite a 1.1 percent increase in retail vacancy rates last year.

That was among the findings of a study announced Thursday during Retail ViewPoint 2010, an overview and forecast of the metropolitan area's retail real estate market held at the Ritz-Carlton in Tysons Corner.. . . more

Hooksett man, 93, to play major role in proposed 'Gateway' development

A man who helped construct the state's highway system and a host of other projects since the late 1920s is excited to play a major role in the proposed Hooksett Gateway Development.

"We must certainly plan for the future and the future starts now," Tom Palazzi, 93, owner of Palazzi Corp. of Hooksett, NH said yesterday. "If you're doing it like you did it yesterday, you're doing it all wrong.". . . more

The economic downturn suits menswear retailer Jos. A. Bank just fine

In a recession that has felled some of the retail industry's biggest names, a scrappy menswear store headquartered outside of Baltimore has become the darling of Wall Street.

Jos. A. Bank began making headlines when -- just days after the stock market plummeted to a 12-year-low -- it offered to refund any suit purchase to customers who lost their jobs.. . . more

Best Buy Plans More U.S. Mobile Stores

Best Buy plans to open hundreds more of its new small mobile stores as it looks to gain a significant market share of the increasing demand for smartphones and other handheld devices, the Financial Times reports.

The retailer expects to have a "number somewhere between here and 1,000" of Best Buy Mobile stores in shopping malls across the U.S., in addition to the 77 it has already opened, CEO Brian Dunn told the newspaper. . . . more

Retailers Try On New Sales Tactics

Penney, Macy's, Home Depot Push Top-Line Growth as Shoppers Slowly Return

In a bid to boost sales as consumers cautiously reopen their wallets, some retailers are putting more emphasis on top-line growth in employees' incentive pay and training programs.

J.C. Penney & Co. plans a three-day conference in June to bolster store managers' sales skills, and in February gave workers bonuses to boost service and sales. Macy's Inc. is tying a greater portion of top executives' bonuses to sales growth. Home Depot Inc. this month is starting to train cashiers, not just floor staff, new sales techniques.. . . more

Outlook for REITs Still Hazy

Although some of the highest-profile US REITs tracked by Fitch Ratings have been assessed with stable outlooks over the past three months, the sector’s overall credit forecast remains negative for 2010, the agency said in a report last week. However, in a separate report, Fitch notes that most REITs are in better liquidity positions than a year ago.

Fitch bases its negative outlook for the balance of the year on ratings actions its REIT group took between January 1 and April 14. “The outlook may be revised to stable if among several items, property-level fundamentals, liquidity, and access to capital strengthen in 2010,” states the report from Fitch managing director Steven Marks and other analysts. . . . more

Friday, April 16, 2010

Casino developers make their pitches

House passage of bill brings raft of promises

Casino and racetrack operators yesterday began to angle for one of the gambling licenses just approved by the Massachusetts House, promising to spend hundreds of millions of dollars building gambling complexes that would provide hundreds of new jobs.. . . more

Kmart counts on rebuilding consumer demand

Jeannette Soto frequents Kmart two or three times a month, but until recently her purchases had been limited to such mundane items as detergent.

"I just started coming in more," said the 46-year-old New Yorker who, after buying her first pair of jeans in years during a trip to Kmart, returned a few days later and snapped up a couple pairs of jeans, two pairs of shoes and a shirt, spending a grand total of $66. "Their styles and colors are better than before. They have more variety." . . . more

Saks to Close More Stores

Saks Fifth Avenue will close less than 20 stores over time, representing “more than a handful” of the 53 full-line units in the luxury chain, said Stephen I. Sadove, chairman and chief executive officer of Saks Inc.

Meanwhile
, Diego Della Valle, one of Saks’ biggest shareholders with 9.1 percent of the stock, said during an appearance in Beverly Hills, “In my opinion, the business every day is much better than before and the valuation of the share will grow a lot.” . . . more

Store Owners Seeking Premium Space Wait for ‘Retailers to Die’

Retailers planning to open stores this year may have difficulty finding space in the most desirable malls and shopping centers, industry executives said.

“For those of us who want to grow and have new stores, we’re having a very hard time finding the right locations,” Richard Baker, chief executive officer of NRDC Equity Partners LLC, the Purchase, New York-based owner of Lord & Taylor, said yesterday during a panel discussion at Bloomberg’s New York offices. “We wait for other retailers to die and hope that we can take their space.”. . . more

Should Nordstrom Stick to Affluent Shoppers?

A CNBC.com article highlights recent comments from Needham & Co. analyst Christine Chen, who opines that Nordstrom's efforts to appease less affluent shoppers could backfire in the long run. Most notably, Chen says the luxury retailer is building its less expensive Nordstrom Rack locations too close to its full-price stores, which could encourage consumers to shift their spending to the lower-priced options.

"Even more detrimental to Nordstrom's strategy is its Manhattan debut," the column notes. After an unsuccessful attempt to secure traditional store space on Park Avenue, the retailer instead decided to plan a 32,000 square-foot Rack location near less-ritzy Union Square. ". . . more

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Hooksett, NH project would be one of state's largest

Town officials and developers unveiled their vision of a 2 million square foot mixed-use development over nearly 170 acres of private, state and town-owned land between I-93 and the Merrimack River including Exit 11.

Developers say the project would be a gateway to the North Country and a destination spot with recreation, entertainment, retail shops, and affordable and luxury housing with renewal energy generation and habitat restoration for native species.. . . more

Restaurant Sales Start to Rebound

March retail sales certainly rebounded, and it looks like restaurants are enjoying some improving sales figures as well. According to data from the NPD Group restaurant sales were up 1% in March after declining 2.9% in 2009.

The industry is also adding jobs, with 42,500 new ones coming on board during the first three months of this year. Those figures are down, though, by 251,000 since December 2007.. . . more

Boston Fed sees economy picking up

The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston offered an upbeat assessment of the New England economy in the latest version of the Fed’s eight-times-a-year summary casually referred to as the “beige book.”

“Business conditions continue to improve in the First District. Contacted retailers cite sales increases, manufacturers say demand continues to grow, and advertising and consulting firms report modest revenue increases,” the researchers wrote.. . . more

Blockbuster CEO Jim Keyes still sees movie-rental opportunities

The retailer focuses on its ability to offer DVDs the same day they go on sale in stores and by mail, whereas rivals Netflix and Redbox have made deals with some studios to delay new releases.

Once the dominant renter of videotapes and DVDs with a presence on seemingly every street corner, Blockbuster Inc. is in the throes of closing more than 1,000 stores while its stock trades at 30 cents a share.. . . more

Consumer Prices in U.S. Rise 0.1%, Core Is Unchanged

The cost of living in the U.S. rose in March, while prices excluding food and energy were unexpectedly unchanged, indicating tame inflation is accompanying the economic recovery.

The 0.1 percent gain in the consumer price index was in line with forecasts and followed no change in February, the Labor Department reported today in Washington. Excluding food and fuel, the so-called core rate held steady after rising 0.1 percent in February, reflecting cheaper rents and clothing. . . . more

U.S. Retail Industry Figures Analysis

The International Council of Shopping Centers declared that March sales were the "best in 16 years." The L.A. Times said that "Pent-Up Demand Explodes for Retailers in March." CNNMoney announced that "super shoppers set records." With all those credible news sources screaming all those exuberant headlines, it's only logical to conclude that the U.S. retail industry must have been recovering, rebounding, rejuvenating, replenishing, and rebuilding the U.S. economy all at the same time in March.

All exuberant headlines aside, some clear-headed analysis of March's same store sales figures, in context with store closings and openings, unemployment numbers, and other underreported retail data tells the real story of the U.S. retail industry. . . . more

Simon’s $6.5B Deal Now Worth It, Say Analysts

As General Growth Properties Inc. said in a statement Wednesday that it would “study the proposal consistent with its fiduciary duties,” analysts say Simon Property Group’s new offer, a reorganization rather than a takeover, is now worth considering. Chairman David Simon sent its recent bid, a pledge of $6.5 billion to match the current GGP-Brookfield Management plan, in a letter to Adam Metz, CEO of the local mall REIT.

Shucking its $9 per share previous takeover offer, Simon has come back to the table touting a new plan that basically promises to match all funds brought to the table by Brookfield, Pershing Square Capital Management and Fairholme Capital Management. . . . more

Cash May Be King, But How Will It Rule?

The often-mentioned build up of un-deployed equity is perhaps no more apparent than with real estate investment trusts (REITs). Industry-wide, REITs now have enough cash or equivalents on average to carry them through the next two years. This is notably different from last year, when REITs were playing defense in protecting their liquidity positions.

The question though, is: what does that mean for REITs or even for an economic recovery? The answers appear to be mixed. . . . more

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Walmart Gets the Word Out on 'Straight Talk' Phone Service

The world's biggest retailer wants to make sure consumers know it's staking a claim in the wireless war -- and it plans to tell them this week with a national ad campaign touting Walmart's Straight Talk service as a real money-saver.

In a pair of ads by Interpublic Group of Cos.' Martin Agency, the retailer claims that if cellphone users switch to Straight Talk -- the wireless brand that retails exclusively at Walmart stores -- it "can add up to over $850 in saving a year." . . . more