Friday, May 28, 2010

KeyPoint Report For Southern New Hampshire: A Preview

While the retail anguish in Southern New Hampshire is not over, it's almost certainly subsiding. Last year’s study period could be described as a test in sheer fortitude. It was a "grind it out" year that had both landlords and retailers scrambling, in some cases for survival. Although the retail industry continued to experience a downward trend through the front half of 2009, we began to see a remarkable turnaround in comp store sales by Fall 2009, which continued through the March, 2010 close of the latest study period. While we continue to see additional fallout from store closings, viable retailers are ready to expand and leases are getting signed.

Retail inventory in Southern New Hampshire benefited little from new development during the 2009-10 study period, as few retail projects were completed. The total supply climbed to 2.8 million square feet, nominally higher than a year ago by only 143,000 square feet. It was not enough to offset the increase in vacant space in the region which as a result experienced net negative absorption of 178,800 square feet.
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Movado winds down retail jewelry stores

Focus to stay on core watch business

Time is up for Movado's retail experiment.

Movado Group Inc., the Swiss watchmaker and jeweler, plans to close its money-losing retail division by the end of June in a move to turn around the company.. . . more

The retailers' dilemma

The mood of executives at retail firms normally moves in lockstep with that of their customers. But in America the news on May 25th that consumer confidence had reached its highest level in two years left them oddly subdued. Consumer spending per person, which fell for two years in a row for the first time since the Depression last year and the year before, has been rising again in recent months. But as retail executives place orders for the crucial end-of-year rush, they are anxiously debating how strong and lasting the consumer’s revival will be.

In the first quarter both fancier retailers such as Gap, Macy’s and Saks and workaday ones like Target, Wal-Mart and Home Depot all announced improved results. . . . more

Costco Plans Additional Private-Label Consumables

Costco Wholesale Corp. here said Thursday it intends to introduce additional canned and packaged goods under its Kirkland Signature label over the next few months.

Richard Galanti, executive vice president and chief financial officer, declined to pinpoint the specific items the company will offer, “but we're prepared to try everything,” he said. . . . more

Retail vacancy rates to level off by yearend

The overall retail vacancy rate for U.S. markets under study increased from 10.7% to 11.0% during just first quarter 2010, but the good news is that the worst of the hemorrhaging seems to be over, according to Colliers International, a leading global real estate services firm. The findings were part of Collier’s Spring 2010 Retail Highlights report.

Colliers expects the overall retail vacancy rate to tick further upward during the second quarter. However, by the end of 2010, vacancies should begin to level off, and clear signs of recovery will become evident in 2011.. . . more

Consumer Spending in U.S. Stalls, Savings Increase

Consumer spending in the U.S. unexpectedly stalled in April as Americans used growing wages to rebuild savings.

Purchases didn’t increase for the first time since September and compared with a 0.3 percent increase projected by the median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. Incomes climbed 0.4 percent for a second month, and the savings rate rose for the first time in four months. . . . more

Higher-end stores give big boost to Big Lots

Big Lots is bringing its "A" game to its "A" stores - and it's paying off.

The company's new stores in upscale locations have performed well, the company said yesterday in announcing first-quarter numbers. That performance contributed to Big Lots' 14th consecutive quarter of record earnings per share.

"These locations, on average, have exceeded our initial financial goals," said Charles Haubiel, executive vice president of legal and real estate, during a conference call with analysts.. . . more

Toys R Us plans to go public again

Toys R Us Inc. said Friday that it plans to go public again by raising as much as $800 million in an initial public offering.

The retailer of toys, games and other products for infants and children said in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it will use the proceeds from the offering to pay off some of its debt and for general corporate purposes. . . more

Thursday, May 27, 2010

A Major Departure

ExxonMobil sells New England sites, leaving distributor to forge new bonds

For Leo Vercollone, the news yesterday that ExxonMobil was selling all of its retail sites in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire to Global Partners LP, a Northeast distributor, was not unexpected; indeed, the major oil company announced its plans a few years back to shake free from retail.. . . more

ShopRite Plans 8th Maryland Store

ShopRite will open its first location in Anne Arundel County, Md., later this year, according to Wakefern Food Corp., the ShopRite cooperative. ShopRite has signed a lease to locate in a former Kmart site in Glen Burnie, the Baltimore Sun newspaper reported Monday.

The store, which will be operated by Collins Family Markets, a Wakefern member based in Philadelphia, will be the eighth ShopRite in Maryland.. . . more

Fewer restaurant operators planning layoffs, pay freezes

The labor outlook for the restaurant industry is showing additional signs of recovery, according to a recently released survey by People Report, a company that tracks personnel trends in the industry.

Fewer operators than last year plan to cut staff, reduce employee hours and freeze salaries, according to the 2010 Economic Conditions report.

"You see some companies still making cuts, still closing units, but conditions seem to be improving for the majority," said Michael Harms, senior business analyst for Dallas-based People Report.. . . more

Borders posts $64.5-million 1Q loss

Borders Group weathered a rough first quarter by cutting costs, but that still wasn’t enough to offset double-digit revenue drops.

The Ann Arbor bookseller reported results for the three months ended May 1 this morning. Total sales were $542.4 million, off 15.4% from $641.5 million in the same period a year ago. And the company reported a first quarter loss of $64.5 million. . . . more

ICSC ‘Brands’ Hot Retailers

The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) has announced the winners of its 2010 “Hot Retailer” awards, which recognize innovative retail concepts that are driving consumers into shopping centers around the world. Based on a survey of ICSC’s worldwide members, six retailers were chosen as the “hottest” concepts and will receive the award during ICSC’s Global Retail Real Estate Convention, RECon, on Tuesday, May 25, 2010, in Las Vegas, Nevada. . . . more

Economy is improving; more store openings seen

A survey conducted by CB Richard Ellis Group found that nearly 70% of retailers are optimistic that the economy is improving. Ninety-two percent plan to increase store openings.

“Our survey shows that retailers are increasingly more confident about their growth plans for 2010, and even more so for 2011," said Anthony Buono, executive managing director of CBRE Retail Services in the Americas.. . . more

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Shopping center recovery likely, trade group reports

The nation’s shopping center industry grew slightly last year, reaching nearly 105,000 centers in operation, but appears poised to pick up the pace, the International Council of Shopping Centers said Monday.

There was little growth in the number of shopping centers between 2008 and May 2010, the most significant slowdown in expansion since at least 1971, according to a study by real estate data provider CoStar Group Inc., which was commissioned by the shopping centers group.. . . more

RI flooding hurt retail jobs already endangered by recession

The historic floods in late March that closed the Warwick Mall and other stores have created a cloud of uncertainty over finding jobs this summer in a retail sector already struggling to recover from the worst recession in decades.

But there are still pockets of hiring in the state, particularly in areas with seasonal demand, from swimming pool suppliers to the shops that cater to Newport’s tourist trade.. . . more

Consumers Gain Confidence on More Jobs

Consumers gained more confidence in May than projected as a recovering U.S. economy raised expectations hiring will pick up in coming months.

The Conference Board’s confidence index rose to 63.3, exceeding all estimates of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News and the highest level in two years, according to a report from the New York-based private research group. Other figures showed home prices rose less than projected in the year through March. . . . more

Zale loss narrows on improved margins, lower costs

Jewelry retailer Zale Corp. on Wednesday reported a smaller net loss in its fiscal third quarter, helped by a tax benefit and the company's efforts to cut costs and sell more items at full price.

Zale has seen its sales tumble during the recession, hurt by tighter credit and high unemployment. It has closed hundreds of stores over the past two years. Its CEO and other executives left in January following a tough holiday season.. . . more

Clash over cash amount hampers Blockbuster's debt negotiations

Blockbuster Inc. originally set today as its annual meeting date, with expectations that it would have a complicated restructuring of its almost $1 billion in debt behind it to report to shareholders.

The Dallas-based company has been struggling to renegotiate its debt all year and said in mid-April that it needed more time to recapitalize its finances. Its annual meeting was moved back a month to June 24.

Blockbuster has warned that if it can't restructure its debt, it could seek bankruptcy. . . . more

Rising Rents in Priciest U.S. Shopping Areas May Signal Rebound

Rents in prime U.S. shopping areas have climbed as much as 15 percent from the end of last year, likely heralding a broader recovery, according to the head of North American leasing at CB Richard Ellis Group Inc.

National retailers are driving up the cost of space on streets such as Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California, and Michigan Avenue in Chicago, Anthony Buono, the broker’s executive managing director for retail services, said in an interview in Las Vegas yesterday. Rents in the most expensive U.S. districts have increased 10 percent to 15 percent from the last quarter of 2009, he said. . . . more

Hopkinton Square Project Shrinks

The developer of the Hopkinton Square mixed-used project is deciding to scale back the project, says the Metro West Daily News. The four-building mixed-used project was approved to be 100,000-square-feet of retail and office space, however the new plan calls for only a 70,000-square-foot two building proposal.

The new proposal was initiated under the cloud of a still struggling economy and will consist of a 40,000-square-foot grocery store and a 30,000-square-foot property with ground-level retail topped by office space. Because of the original confirmation, the board will have to approve any changes made to the project's scope. . . . more

Retailers Assess Doing Deals in the Downturn

Some retailers are still growing today despite the downturn, but they face a different environment in terms of doing deals than they did when the economy was roaring. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that they can call their own tune in lease negotiations because the recession has emptied out a lot of retail space, panelists pointed out at an ICSC panel Sunday at RECon, the annual ICSC spring conference here at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

For example, panelist Debbie Ferrell, senior manager of real estate channel development for T-Mobile, pointed out that the company has a “very aggressive” expansion plan for 200 new locations this year, but faces some challenges in finding those locations. . . . more

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Retailers Assess Doing Deals in the Downturn

LAS VEGAS-Some retailers are still growing today despite the downturn, but they face a different environment in terms of doing deals than they did when the economy was roaring. And that doesn’t necessarily mean that they can call their own tune in lease negotiations because the recession has emptied out a lot of retail space, panelists pointed out at an ICSC panel Sunday at RECon, the annual ICSC spring conference here at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

For example, panelist Debbie Ferrell, senior manager of real estate channel development for T-Mobile, pointed out that the company has a “very aggressive” expansion plan for 200 new locations this year, but faces some challenges in finding those locations. For one, landlords often want longer lease terms. For another, T-Mobile is looking for “A” locations and “It’s a challenge to find them,” she said―when such sites are available, landlords are often holding out for higher rents.. . . more

Fenway, Roxbury projects signaling retail resurgence

High-profile merchant Target Corp. and natural-foods grocer Whole Foods Market Inc. are eyeing major expansions in the Fenway, while Kohl’s Corp. is considering a smaller version of its discount department store in Roxbury — all signs of a renewed optimism in the Hub retail market.

The plans were described yesterday by Mayor Thomas M. Menino and other city officials familiar with the development plans. Menino, who this week is drumming up business for the city at a retail convention in Las Vegas, also reported that Panera Bread Co. is planning to open a restaurant in part of the shuttered Circuit City at South Bay Center in Dorchester. . . . more

Friday, May 21, 2010

How Gap Lost Its Economic Moat

Competition in specialty apparel has reduced Gap's ability to generate superior returns.

As one of the first national specialty apparel retailers, Gap benefited early on from a number of advantages, including size, brand recognition, and long-standing relationships with landlords and vendors. However, given the lack of barriers to entry in the space, and an easily replicable merchandising strategy, this lucrative business attracted competition from all fronts. As Gap's brands fell out of favor, store productivity and merchandise margins plummeted. . . . more

High-End Retailers Are Scouting Sites in Brooklyn

Brooklyn, the new bastion of cool for many New Yorkers, is poised to go mainstream chic. The announcement that Barneys Co-op will open its first store in Cobble Hill has cleared the way for other nationally recognized high-end retailers to make a similar move across the bridge, according to brokers who specialize in representing luxury clothiers.

A number of other retailers who in the past have been more at home in SoHo or on Madison Avenue have begun touring Brooklyn. These include the jewelers Swarovski Crystal, and the clothiers Anthropologie and North Face. . . . more

Gap Leads Specialty Earnings Results

Boosted by top-line growth across all divisions, Gap Inc. on Thursday posted strong first-quarter results, said it’s back to building up inventory after four years of reductions and raised full-year guidance.

Gap also will begin testing the first Athleta store next month and accelerate Old Navy remodelings. It is moving forward on the international front with the first stores in China set to open in late fall, and will reprise the black pant campaign beginning in late July.. . . more

Borders gets investment from financier LeBow

Borders Group Inc said on Friday that a company controlled by financier Bennett LeBow has taken a $25 million equity stake in the struggling bookseller, making him its largest shareholder.

LeBow, who will join Borders' board, bought 11.1 million shares for $2.25 each, the No. 2 U.S. specialty bookstore chain said in a statement.. . . more

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Mass. economy speeds up, jobs coming, says forecast

The Massachusetts economy is recovering at a quickening pace that will lead to more hiring over the next several months, setting the stage for an expansion that could create more then 200,000 jobs over the next five years, according to an economic forecast released today.

The forecast, presented at the New England Economic Partnership's semi-annual conference in Boston, projects a much stronger rebound for Massachusetts than those that followed the two previous recessions. The state should regain all the jobs lost in the recent recession by mid-2013, about four years after it ended.. . . more

Retail Rents Start to Climb in Manhattan

Average asking rents for ground floor space in Manhattan’s retail corridors have gone up between 2% and 71% in the past six month, says the Real Estate Board of New York in a report released Thursday. The uptick in rents coincides with an increase in leasing velocity.

Fastest-growing average asking rents were seen on Broadway and Seventh Avenue between 42nd and 47th streets, which rose 71% to $1,400 per square foot, while those on Bleecker Street between Seventh Avenue South and Hudson Street rose 30% to $456 per foot, according to REBNY’s Spring 2010 Retail Report. . . . more

Post-Recession Consumer Is a Tougher Sell

What does the post-recession consumer look like?

If a Deloitte study conducted early this month is any indication, the average shopper is feeling better about her financial situation and is more confident and optimistic about the economy's recovery.

Still, consumers aren't ready to ditch their frugal ways, and have adopted new habits such as shopping at discount stores and comparing product prices online—sometimes even while they are standing in the store about to buy an item. . . . more

Staples profit rises 32% as customer traffic picks up

Office-supplies retailer Staples Inc. said Thursday that its fiscal first-quarter profit rose 32% as it lowered marketing expenses and increased customer traffic in its North American stores.

Signs of economic improvement have given hope for the office-supplies sector as some businesses start hiring again and consumers who have delayed major purchases feel more comfortable shelling out for bigger ticket items again, analysts said. Staples should outperform its smaller rivals Office Depot Inc. and OfficeMax Inc., they said. . . . more

Why Wal-Mart's sales should have everyone worried

It certainly looks like happy days are here again. Many of the nation's biggest retailers, including Saks, Hewlett-Packard, Home Depot, and Target have released cheery sales reports. April's jobs reports showing a slight increase in the workweek and pay for workers, and more hiring across the board.

And then there is Wal-Mart, whose happy yellow face switched to a grimace when it released first quarter sales on Tuesday. Although international growth helped push revenues up 6%, sales at U.S. stores fell 1.4% from the same period last year.. . . more

Sears Holdings' profit falls 38% in first quarter

Sears Holding Corp.'s first-quarter net income fell 38 percent on thinner profit margins at its Sears chain, squeezed by discounts on appliances.

The discounts offset a turnaround in revenue at the retailers' Sears and Kmart stores, breaking a long string of declines at Sears stores. It was Kmart's third consecutive quarter of rising revenue at stores open at least a year. . . . more

Retailers back in expansion mode

Instead of hearing about massive store closures this year, we could get more news about chains opening their doors, according to a just-released retail report by CB Richard Ellis. The report surveyed executives at just over 100 retail companies — most of them national — and found that more than 90% of the respondents planned to boost store counts.

One chain highlighted was 7-Eleven. “With other retailers shedding stores, 7-Eleven is in a position to acquire top retail space that wasn’t available a few years ago,” said Dan Porter, that company’s vice president of real estate and new store development.. . . more

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Target's profit surges in Q1

Target Corp. on Wednesday reported its profit rose by nearly 30 in the first quarter, citing strong sales of clothing and other discretionary items.

Growth in apparel sales — which has been on the rise in recent months — is good news for Target. Low-cost, stylish apparel was a core strength for Target before the recession, but when the downturn hit the retailer saw that segment (along with other non-essentials, like housewares, which it also specialized in) take a hit. That led to Target faring worse, by comparison, than rival Wal-Mart Stores Inc., which typically focused more on food and essentials and stressed prices above style.. . . more

Private-Label Consumer Goods Making Mark on Public

For many generations, the average consumer woke up every morning and reached for their favorite cereal, let's say, Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes.

Later, they lunched on a sandwich of Skippy peanut butter and Smuckers jam on Wonder Bread. Then they washed their hands with Dial and rinsed their mouths with Listerine.

No more.. . . more

ShopRite To Reopen Four Former Shaw's Stores In Connecticut Next Week

ShopRite said today it will open three new stores in Canton, Enfield and Stratford on Wednesday, May 26, at former Shaw's locations.

A fourth ShopRite, in Hamden, will open Friday, May 28, also at a former Shaw's location.. . . more

Panera bakery chain launches new charitable restaurant

Panera Bread Co. is asking customers at a new restaurant to pay what they want.

The national bakery and restaurant chain launched a new nonprofit store here this week that has the same menu as its other 1,400 locations. But the prices are a little different — there aren't any. Customers are told to donate what they want for a meal, whether it's the full suggested price, a penny or $100.

The new store in the upscale St. Louis suburb of Clayton is the first of what will Panera hopes will be many around the country.. . . more

Consumer Prices in U.S. Will Probably Show Inflation Contained

The cost of living in the U.S. probably rose 0.1 percent in April for a second month, signaling little threat inflation will flare as the world’s largest economy rebounds, economists said before a report today.

The projected increase in the consumer price index is based on the median forecast of 79 economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. . . . more

Neiman Marcus considers new concept for Pittsburgh location

An executive vice president for real estate brokerage CB Richard Ellis/Pittsburgh, said Tuesday that he's in discussions with the Dallas-based retailer about bringing a new concept store to the Bakery Square development in Larimer.

The store would be the second of its kind in the country, he said. Neiman Marcus opened the first last month in upscale University Park, Texas. Mr. Pollock said the store blends traditional Neiman Marcus merchandise with that sold at its Last Call clearance centers. The retailer is considering a store in the 17,000- to 20,000-square-foot range for Pittsburgh, he said. . . . more

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Target turns up the volume on electronics

Old lines keep blurring in consumer electronics, with big retailers evolving as the marketplace shifts.

Target Corp. said Monday it's rolling out a larger, more hands-on video-game section in stores nationwide. It's also adding larger and more high-tech TVs, some carrying lofty price tags of more than $1,000. . . . more

Department Stores Are Rising From the Dead, Believe It or Not

There was a moment in the depths of this recession, around early 2009, when department stores were floundering and it seemed doubtful some chains would survive the downturn. But that moment is over, as department stores come roaring back with stronger sales and even expansion plans. It appears America isn’t done yet with its love affair with old-time department-store glamour.

Leading the charge is best-in-class operator Nordstrom (JWN), where profit shot up and sales at stores open more than a year notched a hefty 12 percent gain compared with the first quarter of ‘09. . . . more

Aussie retailer tests US waters

Australian fitness retailer, Workout World, has opened its first international store in Los Angeles, California.

The store, located at Sherman Oaks, is designed to cash in on the LA trend of working out, as one of the US's capitals of fitness.

The 5,400 sq ft fitness equipment specialist store is Workout World’s first overseas retail venture and forms part of Workout World’s broader retail push into the US.. . . more

Home Depot boosts outlook after strong spring

Home Depot Inc reported a better-than-expected quarterly profit and boosted its earnings forecast for the year after it saw strong demand for gardening products and energy-efficient appliances.

The news from the top U.S. home-improvement chain came a day after rival Lowe's Cos gave a disappointing profit forecast for the rest of the year, despite strong quarterly results.. . . more

Walmart Announces Hefty Rollbacks on Grocery Categories

Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. announced today that American families could see more than $700 million in savings this summer across all grocery categories through the retailer's continued, aggressive Rollbacks program. Price reductions include 'deep Rollbacks' on a basket of 22 favorite foods and everyday essentials families routinely purchase, offered for an average savings of 30 percent off the retailer's everyday low price. . . . more

Monday, May 17, 2010

Spring revival on Newbury Street

So far this year, more than a dozen new shops have opened on Newbury Street — from Cotelac women’s apparel to British clothier Ben Sherman — giving the street a 95 percent occupancy rate among more than 300 retail properties.. . . more

High-end spenders again indulge urge to splurge

laudia March has a taste for the finer things. She drives a 2010 BMW. For Gucci shoes and Prada handbags, she shops at Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. And the 38-year-old treated herself and her mother to a weekend at the Boston Park Plaza hotel for a spring getaway.. . . more

Friendly's tweaks Express concept

To fit the concept more snugly into the fast casual niche, Friendly’s Ice Cream Corp. has made several adjustments to its Friendly’s Express concept, the second of which opened April 28 in Brookline, Mass.

A new menu focus on to-go foods and new packaging ensures that customers will get the food home or to the office in top condition. The ordering counter has a case stocked with cold beverages and grab-and-go side dishes. Outside, a new logo tells passersby that this isn’t their father’s Friendly’s.. . . more

Macy's CEO says focus on customer driving sales

Macy's chief executive told shareholders Friday that he expects the company's strategy of tailoring merchandise to local markets and its focus on in-house and exclusive brands to continue boosting its sales.

CEO, President and Chairman Terry Lundgren told shareholders at their annual meeting that the rebound at the company's upscale Bloomingdale's chain also has helped improve results. . . . more

Lowe's profit beats expectations, but forecast falls short

No. 2 home-improvement retailer Lowe's Cos. said Monday that its first-quarter profit rose a better-than-expected 2.7% after demand for bigger-ticket items led to its first comparable sales increase in more than three years.

"Consumers are showing signs of reengagement in home improvement, including discretionary projects and purchases of bigger ticket products, which had taken a back seat during the worst of the economic downturn," said Chief Executive Robert Niblock, adding the government's stimulus programs and favorable weather in March and April also bolstered demand. . . . more

Retailer TJX Cos. stayed true to its formula

In many ways, TJX Cos., the multinational off-price retailer based in Framingham, outmaneuvered the recession. As other merchants cut back on advertising, TJX stepped up its marketing, using network television to educate customers about the bargains it offered. As consumers nationwide slashed spending, the company attracted growing numbers of cost-conscious shoppers and fashionistas no longer willing to pay full price for brand names.

TJX kept the treasure hunt fresh, adding 2,000 vendors to increase the assortment of merchandise at its T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, Home Goods, and AJ Wright stores. . . . more

Retailers prep for comeback

Retailers are priming for a consumer comeback.

Shoppers have started to show they’re willing and able to spend more, and stores are tweaking their merchandise to accommodate them. Cashmere is making a comeback and sellers of everything from wine to toys are seeing shoppers move away from the very lowest price ranges.

The moves signal optimism that the recovery from the Great Recession is picking up steam, but there’s a downside for shoppers: the return of higher prices.. . . more

De-boxing the big boxes

Some of those empty big-box stores scattering the area retail landscape are getting sliced and diced.

When Staples Inc. came calling and the vacant Office Depot space Jim Johannson had in Bloomington was just too big, he did what a landlord has to: He chopped the big box down to size.

It's the type of move the Twin Cities can expect to see more of as landlords struggle with a glut of empty big-box stores -- cavernous reminders of the hammering retailers have taken during the recession.. . . more

Friday, May 14, 2010

Hanover, MA store latest to get new Wal-Mart design

The world’s largest retailer is giving a new look to many of its U.S. stores, and Wal-Mart’s Hanover Mall location is one of the latest to get an upgrade.

The changes are part of Project Impact, which is Bentonville, Ark.-based Wal-Mart Stores’ catchphrase for its strategy of reinvigorating stores and making them easier for shoppers to navigate.. . . more

Express IPO shares get lukewarm reception

Express Inc. shares got a lukewarm reception Thursday, after the seller of trendy jeans and T-shirts' initial public offering priced below expectations.

The Columbus, Ohio, company raised $166.9 million, after expenses, from an IPO of 16 million shares priced at $17 per share. Previously, the company expected to sell shares for as much as $20 apiece. Underwriters have an option to buy up to an additional 2.4 million shares from selling stockholders.. . . more

Consumer spending rises for 7th straight month

Retail sales rose in April for the seventh straight month, offering hope that consumer spending will keep supporting the economy in the months ahead.

The Commerce Department said Friday that retail sales rose 0.4 percent last month, better than the 0.2 percent increase economists had expected. The gain was less than the the 2.1 percent growth in March. But that surge was boosted by an early Easter holiday and auto incentives.. . . more

Blockbuster shares dive as cash worries mount

Blockbuster Inc, the No. 1 U.S. movie rental chain teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, lost more than a fifth of its value on Thursday as worries grew about its rapidly dwindling cash pile.

But Blockbuster, which continues to hemorrhage customers to rivals such as Netflix and Coinstar Inc's Redbox, said it was making headway in discussions with investors on recapitalizing. It did not elaborate.. . . more

Nordstrom income jumps 44% in Q1

Nordstrom reported net earnings of $116 million for the first quarter ended May 1. This represented an increase of 43.8%, compared with net earnings of $81 million for the same quarter last year.

First quarter same-store sales increased 12.0% compared with the same period in fiscal 2009. Net sales in the first quarter were $1.99 billion, an increase of 16.7% compared with net sales of $1.71 billion during the same period in fiscal 2009.. . . more

Penney's 1Q profit more than doubles

J.C. Penney Co. said Friday that its first-quarter profit more than doubled and it posted its first quarterly sales increase in more than two years.

Still worried about the consumer, the company offered second-quarter and full-year guidance that was slightly below analyst estimates. . . . more

NexCen sells brands to Levine Leichtman for $112M

NexCen Brands Inc. said Thursday it is selling all of its franchise businesses, including the Great American Cookie, MaggieMoo's, Marble Slab Creamery, Pretzelmaker and Pretzel Time brands, to an affiliate of private-equity firm Levine Leichtman Capital Partners for $112.5 million.

NexCen, which began exploring strategic alternatives in February amid falling sales and a cash shortfall, said part of the proceeds of the buyout would be paid to its lender, BTMU Capital Corp., to satisfy the company's debt. The deal is subject to approval by NexCen shareholders and is expected to close in the third quarter of 2010.. . . more

Thursday, May 13, 2010

State to force stores to post graphic signs vs. smoking

Massachusetts is poised to become the first state in the nation to force retailers to prominently display graphic warnings about the perils of smoking right where cigarettes are sold — at tobacco sales racks and next to cash registers.

Images of ominously darkened lungs, damaged brains, and diseased teeth could start appearing before the end of the year in more than 9,000 convenience stores, pharmacies, and gas stations, if a proposal by the state Department of Public Health is approved as expected. Other posters would direct smokers to where they can get help to stamp out their habit.. . . more

Urban Outfitters 1Q net income, revenue rise

Urban Outfitters Inc. said Thursday that its first-quarter net income jumped 72 percent partly on sales strength across its brands and fewer markdowns.

The retailer, whose brands include Anthropologie, Free People and Terrain as well its namesake stores, narrowly beat Wall Street expectations.. . . more

Top Blockbuster shareholder says company worth fighting for

Had a long talk with Greg Meyer last night. He's the guy who owns 645,000 shares of Blockbuster -- more than any exec at Blockbuster, save for CEO Jim Keyes, whose stock comes with the title, and more than anyone on the board of directors. He's the former managing director of DVDXpress who, in 2005, told Blockbuster to get into the kiosk business (it didn't). He's the guy giving Keyes all kinda fits in advance of the June 24 shareholders meeting at 1201 Elm Street downtown. He's the guy who wants to be on the Blockbuster board; only, Keyes doesn't want him. Right. That guy.. . . more

Whole Foods sales trending up

The Austin, Texas-based seller of organic and natural foods on Wednesday said closely watched same-store sales rose 8.7 percent in the fiscal second-quarter and were up an even stronger 9.5 percent so far in the current quarter.

Other upscale retailers have seen sales improve as high-income shoppers grow more confident that the U.S. economy is on the mend.

"This company caters to a more affluent customer and it shows," said Arnold. "What a bifurcation between what the traditional grocers and these guys have to say right now.". . . more

Are Pension Funds Warming Up to CRE Again?

Billions of Dollars in New Investment Have Been Earmarked for High-Quality Commercial Real Estate

The news of late from public pension funds would indicate that they may be warming to commercial real estate again -- even after taking a beating on those investments over the past couple of years.

In the past couple of weeks, pension plans both in the United States and Canada have been showing up as buyers in trophy properties, pumping money into new investment funds and lining up joint venture investors and partners in other deals. . . . more

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The $6.7B Question: What’s Next for Simon?

Simon Property Trust may have lost out on its well publicized bids to buy or recapitalize rival General Growth Properties, but the REIT remains in an enviable financial position as it sits on vast reserves of cash and credit.

Last week, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Allan Gropper in Manhattan approved a Brookfield Asset Management plan to recapitalize General Growth Properties and granted the Canadian firm “stalking horse” status. . . . more

Retail real estate stabilizes after hitting low point

Retail vacancies in Greater Boston have hit their highest levels in over a decade, leaving emptied-out storefronts in regional malls, big box centers and strip plazas alike. The sharp two-year downturn has roiled one of the nation’s most stable retail markets, forcing malls to recruit local tenants, scuttling plans for new centers and slowing the opening of others. The worst of the shakeout appears to be over, industry analysts say, but little new construction is expected for at least two years.

“Landlords are trying to stop the bleeding,” said Mark Hickey, real estate economist for Portfolio and Property Research, a Boston-based consultancy owned by CoStar.

The retail vacancy rate in eastern Massachusetts rose to 9.7 percent as of March 1, according to a survey of commercial real estate in 189 communities by KeyPoint Partners of Burlington. It’s the highest vacancy rate since the real estate company began tracking the market in the mid-1990s.. . . more

New BJ's Wholesale Complete

Coastal Partners has completed construction for a new BJ's Wholesale Club in Quincy. The new store is located at 2100 Crown Colony Road within the Crown Colony Office Park. Its 84,000-square-foot size marks the first mid-sized prototype for the wholesaler in New England. . . . more

Dunkin' franchisee group growing in Midwest

The DD Independent Franchise Owners Group, a Bellingham group that represents many Dunkin' Donuts franchise owners in the United States, said in a press release that it now represents about 2,300 shops after many shops in the Midwest joined its ranks.
The group refers to itself as DDIFO. . . . more

Tom Ryan to retire from CEO post at CVS Caremark

CVS Caremark chairman, president and CEO Tom Ryan has announced that he will retire as CEO of the company at next year’s shareholder’s meeting in May 2011.

The board of directors is appointing Larry Merlo, president and COO, and anticipates Merlo will succeed Ryan as CEO.. . . more

Zale strengthens on newly closed loan

Zale Corp. said late Monday it has closed on a new $150 million, five-year senior secured term loan provided by private-equity firm Golden Gate Capital.

In addition to interest and fees on the GGC Loan, GGC will receive a 25% equity stake in Zale Corp., pending required shareholder approval, and two GGC representatives will serve on the company’s board of directors.. . . more