Friday, July 30, 2010

Recovery loses speed as consumers turn cautious

The recovery lost momentum in the spring as growth slowed to a 2.4 percent pace, its most sluggish showing in nearly a year and too weak to drive down unemployment.

Consumers spent less, companies slowed their restocking of shelves and the nation's trade deficit dragged more on the economy in the April-to-June quarter. In a separate report, the Commerce Department said the recession was deeper than previously estimated.. . . more

Simon Property Group reports improved quarterly results

Simon Property Group Inc., the largest U.S. shopping-mall owner, said Friday morning that second-quarter earnings rose as national retail sales improved.

"Our positive momentum from the first quarter continued," said Simon CEO David Simon in a prepared statement. “The improvement in business conditions extended into the second quarter as demonstrated by higher occupancy and sales. Sales for our malls and Premium Outlets during the second quarter of 2010 were 4.9 percent higher than in the second quarter of 2009, and occupancy grew 90 basis points from March 31, 2010.”. . . more

Remodeling Walmart

Nation's largest retail chain is making changes to its stores to retain the new customers it's captured since the beginning of the recession

The recession brought many middle-class customers to Walmart for the first time. Now that the economy has shown some improvement, the discount retailer is trying to keep them coming back, in part by giving stores a fresh new look.

Called "Project Impact," the effort began in 2008, and the company hopes to have all stores remodeled by 2013.. . . more

Centro Extends $2.7B of US Loans

In what group CEO Robert Tsenin calls “important initial steps” in assessing its restructuring options, Australian shopping mall owner Centro Properties Group has lined up $659 million in new financing and a one-year extension on $2.3 billion of existing debt in its US operations.

In all, the Centro organization has addressed slightly more than $2.7 billion of $3.2 billion in debt that’s coming due. In a release from Centro’s Australian headquarters, the company says “a number of options to address the remaining balance of approximately $440 million are being considered, and we remain confident these will be resolved in due course.”. . . more

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Goldman and Citigroup to sell $788.5 million CMBS

Goldman Sachs Group Inc and Citigroup Inc will sell a $788.5 million commercial mortgage-backed security, according to a term sheet sent to investors, in the largest deal of its kind since volume began crawling back after the financial crisis.

The issue would be the sixth since the CMBS market re-opened in December, but just one of a few that include multiple loans. It is expected to price next week, according to the term sheet obtained by Reuters.. . . more

Wal-Mart unveils plans for Derry, NH superstore

Armed with stacks of information and colorful artist renderings, Wal-Mart officials showed off a bigger and better store plan to Derry planning officials last week.

Wal-Mart hopes to build a 155,000-square-foot, 24-hour superstore at a site off Ashleigh Drive — a key piece in the town's economic development puzzle for that area of Route 28.. . . more

Build-A-Bear loss widens in Q2

Build-A-Bear Workshop Inc. said Thursday its second-quarter loss widened to $8.5 million from $6 million a year ago, as the make-your-own-stuffed-animal retailer was hurt by the shift of the Easter holiday.

To boost traffic and transactions, the company plans to focus on generating "a sense of urgency to shop with more frequent and high impact product introductions supported with enticing offers."

Build-A-Bear is also looking at new revenue streams outside its retail stores, including a new license agreement with Michaels Stores for the distribution of Build-A-Bear Craftshop kits beginning in September, Clark said.. . . more

Remodelers Outlet in Fall River has more room in new retail location

When remodeling isn’t an option, moving is often the solution — even for a store specializing in products to remodel homes.

The Remodelers Outlet recently opened in a new space, taking the first-floor area in the building formerly used by the Burlington Coat Factory, 657 Quarry St. The self-described “outlet with a personal touch” was previously located in the same building, but in a location that forced the business to use three floors to display products.. . . more

RadioShack 2Q profit jumps as wireless pays off

RadioShack Corp.'s second-quarter net income rose 8 percent with its new emphasis on wireless products paying off, the company said Thursday.

The company also said it plans to open kiosks offering cell phones and wireless products in most Target stores by mid-2011. Those kiosks will begin appearing next month.

. . . more

This Just In: Customers Like Service!

Guess what? Retail customers like to shop at places where they receive good customer service. What a stunning revelation! Also, LeBron James went to Miami, Lindsay Lohan is in trouble with the law, the Red Sox are plagued with injuries, and the sky is, you know, blue.

How did I happen upon this astounding discovery? Scanning the news recently, I noticed an article about a recent study with the grandiose name of the “American Express Global Customer Service Barometer” a comprehensive, costly (one assumes) international survey “exploring attitudes and preferences toward customer service”. Know what they discovered? . . . more

Before and After

Remember 2004, 2005, and 2006: the good ol' years when retailers were expanding, developers were building, and investors were buying? Vacancy rates were around 6.0% back then, and net absorption was consistently positive. Well, in case you haven't noticed, things have changed just a bit. For starters, retail vacancy rates in Eastern Massachusetts have risen with unprecedented velocity since 2005. Back then, the retail vacancy rate was a relatively healthy 5.6%, probably the last time we’re going to see a sub-6.0% rate for a while. . . . more

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Second-hand gold

Down economy, rising interest in recycling mean big business for expanding resale stores

In the golf section at Play It Again Sports in Dedham, behind rows of slightly worn soccer cleats and bins of brand-new baseballs, Finbar Ford of Walpole admired a used, $30 left-handed wedge.

Ford has been doing more second-hand shopping during the down economy as the cancellations for his construction business have piled up. But it wasn’t just a deal that Ford, dressed in shorts and work boots, was after at the store. “It’s recycling,’’ he said.. . . more

Supervalu CFO Knous to leave this month

Supervalu Inc. says its chief financial officer, Pamela K. Knous, is leaving the grocery company to pursue other interests.

The company said in a news release Tuesday that Knous, 56, will be available to help with the transition after stepping down as CFO on Friday.. . . more

Kimco Misses Marginally

Kimco Realty Corp., a leading real estate investment trust (REIT), reported a 13.8% increase in second quarter 2010 rental revenues compared with the year-earlier quarter. Revenues for the reported quarter increased to $214.0 million from $188.1 million in the year-ago quarter. However, revenues for the reported quarter fell short of the Zacks Consensus Estimate of $216 million.

Overall occupancy in Kimco’s combined shopping center portfolio was 92.7% at the end of the quarter, an increase of 40 bps compared with second quarter 2009. In the U.S. portfolio, occupancy was 92.3% as on June 30, 2010, an increase of 50 bps compared with the year-ago period.
. . . more

J.C. Penney takes advantage of new advertising medium

New videos have been surfacing on the Internet featuring teens, mostly young women, discussing their shopping finds, or hauls, with other teens looking to fill their wardrobe with the latest trends. According to Kate Coutlas, PR manager for Brand Communications at J.C. Penney, the company has taken advantage of its new back-to-school campaign, which has the tagline of "New look. New day. Who knew!" and is venturing into new advertising territory.

"While J.C. Penney has long gotten credit for its value and quality, we often don't get credit for our style," Coutlas said. "We want new customers to discover the fashion of J.C. Penney and also want customers that may have not been in a J.C. Penney in a few years to come give us a try.". . . more

Why consumers go to restaurants instead of supermarkets

Cravings and fun atmospheres drive consumers to restaurants rather than the local supermarket when time-starved families need a solution to the age-old question, “What’s for dinner?” according to a new report from The NPD Group.

The market research firm found that nearly two-thirds of prepared foods sold at retail come from traditional supermarkets, but there are advantages that restaurants can leverage to prevent further erosion in their takeout-meal market share from what NPD calls food stores.. . . more

Winn-Dixie to close 30 stores

Winn-Dixie Stores Inc. on Tuesday announced it will close 30 of its 514 stores, and cut 120 jobs in its corporate and field support staffs as it deals with a continued weak economy.

The Jacksonville-based supermarket chain wouldn't say which stores are closing until company officials can inform the employees involved, which should happen by the end of Wednesday.

The stores being closed "can't operate efficiently or profitably" in this economy, CEO Peter Lynch said.

. . . more

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Yard House inks new lease near Fenway

Fresh from its successful launch at the Legacy Place shopping mall in Dedham last year, California-based eatery and draft-beer vendor extraordinaire The Yard House has leased 10,500 square feet of space for a new restaurant in the shadows of Boston’s Fenway Park.

The new venue at 126 Brookline Avenue will fill space formerly occupied by The Boston Billiard Club and will feature indoor and outdoor seating for up to 500 customers.. . . more

Uno Chicago announces emergence from Ch. 11

The parent company of Uno Chicago Grill has announced that it has emerged from Chapter 11 bankruptcy as part of a reorganization plan.

Frank Guidara, president and chief executive of the Boston-based Uno, announced Monday the reorganization plan approved by United States Bankruptcy Court for the Southern District of New York. . . . more

Mass. home sales rose in June

Massachusetts single-family home sales rose 24.9 percent in June, the most homes sold in any single month since June 2006, as consumers scrambled to take advantage of a temporary tax credit, the Massachusetts Association of Realtors reported today.

The median selling price for Bay State single-family homes in June was $331,150, up 8.2 percent from $306,000 in June 2009. The June 2010 median price was the highest median price of any month since June 2008.. . . more

Sears Has the Right Idea With Outlets

Sears Holdings Corp. is expanding an outlet concept that, unlike some of the other strategies the company has, makes sense to expand in this environment. It recently announced plans to open a unit in Schaumburg, IL; replacing a Great Indoors store, and will open another one in Concord, NC, replacing a Kmart.

No major expansion plans were made public by the retailer, but the company currently operates about 100 of these stores, and it seems prepared to open more. . . . more

Maybe Demand Isn't So Pent Up

As the economic downturn has persisted, marketers have comforted themselves with the thought that a lot of pent-up demand must be accumulating. But a survey issued this month by Deloitte and the Harrison Group gives reason to wonder whether this reservoir of demand actually exists.

From a marketer's point of view, one of the poll's findings is particularly alarming in this regard: 65 percent of respondents agreed with the statement, "Even though I am spending less on products now, it doesn't feel like I'm sacrificing that much.". . . more

Supervalu's firstquarter net income falls 40 pct

Supervalu Inc.'s first-quarter net income fell 40 percent as rising competition cut into the grocery chain's sales.

Revenue fell 9.6 percent to $11.5 billion as the company exited certain markets.

CEO Craig Herkert said Supervalu, based in Eden Prairie, Minn., is trying to serve its customers and cut its costs as it attempts to rebuild its brand. It still faces challenges as shoppers keep a tight lid on spending and shop around more. Discounters and other grocers are increasingly competing on prices with Supervalu's chains, he said.
. . . more

Monday, July 26, 2010

Ringing up sales

Phones are retailers’ latest route to back-to-school shoppers’ wallets

Merchants looking to boost sales during the critical back-to-school season are courting students where they spend most of their time — on their phones.

Kmart is planning next week to blast out daily text messages with promotions for the back-to-school season. J.C. Penney Co. is displaying interactive ads on iPhone apps that allow users to view new outfit combinations for the fall and find the closest store. And American Eagle Outfitters this week is giving away free smartphones to consumers just for trying on a pair of jeans — no purchase necessary.. . . more

Wal-Mart to roll out smart tags on men's basics

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is putting electronic identification tags on men's clothing like jeans starting Aug. 1 as the world's largest retailer tries to gain more control of its inventory. But the move is raising eyebrows among privacy experts.

The individual garments, which also includes underwear and socks, will have removable smart tags that can be read from a distance by Wal-Mart workers with scanners. In seconds, the worker will be able to know what sizes are missing and will also be able tell what it has on hand in the stock room. Such instant knowledge will allow store clerks to have the right sizes on hand when shoppers need them.. . . more

Hispanic Market Hits Tipping Point

Demo Accounts for One in Six U.S. Residents, Nearly Half Are at Ease in English

If you're looking to reach upholders of traditional American values, your best bet might be the Hispanic market.

The market is growing: The 2010 Census expected to count a record 50 million Hispanics, or one in every six U.S. residents, meaning the Hispanic population will have increased a stunning 42% from the previous census in 2000.. . . more

Forever 21 opens new bi-level store in Fashion Show mall

Shop will appeal to more than teens, exec says

A California-based apparel business is opening its flagship Las Vegas store at Fashion Show mall today, taking 126,000 square feet of retail space that was leased but never occupied by Lord & Taylor when the Strip shopping mall expanded in 2002.

It will be the largest store
in Nevada for Forever 21, a brand retailer that specializes in lifestyle clothing and accessories targeted toward the text-messaging generation of consumers.. . . more

Air base parkway on track

Governor Deval Patrick, US Senator John Kerry, and US Representative William D. Delahunt of Quincy are expected to visit the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station today to help break ground on a parkway that officials hope will jump-start development at the shuttered airfield.

LNR Property Corp., a Miami Beach-based real estate company behind the ambitious redevelopment project, plans to subdivide the air base into parcels that it can sell to home builders and commercial developers who would then construct SouthField, where 2,855 homes, offices, restaurants, retail shops, an 18-hole golf course, turf athletic fields, an ice skating rink, and film studio complex are planned.. . . more

Friday, July 23, 2010

Thousands of Restaurants Are Closing

The recession certainly isn't letting up on restaurants. The industry saw 5,204 closures between last spring and the same period in 2009, according to a report by the NPD Group. Full-service outlets accounted for just over half of those closures, while the rest were in the fast-food arena.

Getting hit the hardest are independent operators, NPD says, while large chains' unit counts remained largely unchanged. Another interesting fact: Total spending at restaurants declined 1% over the period, the first time NPD has tallied a decrease since it started following the industry in 1976.. . . more Falls Most in 21 Months After Profit Miss Inc., the largest Internet retailer, dropped the most in 21 months after a report showed price cuts on the Kindle and record capital spending are taking a toll on profit.

Under Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, capital spending ballooned to $196 million last quarter as built more warehouses to help ship a growing array of products that range from books to car parts. He’s also adding data centers to beef up a business of providing computing services to companies.. . . more

OfficeMax COO lands at A & P

After OfficeMax announced Thursday that its COO Sam Martin had departed the company, Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. said Friday that it has nabbed Martin as its new president and CEO.

Martin replaces Ron Marshall, who has left A&P after roughly five months in the job. Martin had been COO at OfficeMax since 2007.. . . more

Judge considers arguments in Barnes & Noble fight

An attorney for billionaire Ron Burkle said a poison pill plan adopted by Barnes & Noble could have far-reaching consequences affecting shareholder rights, according to a Thursday report by the Associated Press. But a Delaware judge said the retailer may have acted reasonably in adopting the poison pill last year after Burkle more than doubled his stake in the company.

After hearing final arguments in the Burkle lawsuit, the judge said he would try to issue a ruling quickly. He gave no indication of how soon the ruling would be made.. . . more

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Bottom Dollar to take Philly stake

Bottom Dollar Food, a discount grocer and business unit of Delhaize America Inc, plans to open between 15 and 20 stores by year end in the Philadelphia market. The grocer says the stores will create more than 600 jobs in the region.

Bottom Dollar Food opened its first store in High Point, NC on Sept. 21, 2005. The company has grown since to 28 stores in North Carolina, Virginia and Maryland. . . . more

OfficeMax COO departs company

OfficeMax said Thursday that executive VP and COO Sam Martin has left the company, effective July 21, to become CEO of another public company.

Chairman and CEO Sam Duncan will assume Martin’s COO duties, effectively immediately, and said the office supplies retailer will not immediately seek a replacement for Martin.. . . more

Interest in BJ’s Grows as Stock Hits High

Stock in BJ’s Wholesale Club closed at a 52-week high of $44.91 per share Tuesday — its highest price level in more than eight years — as speculation about a potential deal with a private equity firm appeared to strengthen.

Leonard Green & Partners earlier this month said it had acquired a 9.5% stake in the retailer and intended to discuss potential financing deals, including a “going-private” transaction with the retailer.. . . more

Restaurant employment picture shapes up

Employment expectations from restaurant operators are up in the third quarter this year, to nearly the same level they hit before the recession led to hiring freezes and layoffs, according to the latest People Report Workforce Index.

Forty-two percent of surveyed operators said they expected to add hourly workers in the third quarter while just 5 percent plan to cut staff. Nearly half of the respondents plan to hire more managers and none planed to reduce their management workforce.. . . more

Retail’s Mobility Imperative: A Measured Approach to the Emerging Channel

Cell phones and smartphones have become constant companions to influential shoppers. To capitalize on mobility’s ubiquity, leading U.S retailers are actively pursuing the mobile channel as a way to enhance customer engagement and loyalty, while giving them “first-mover” advantage over their competitors.

Today, nearly three out of four U.S. retailers have some kind of mobile initiative in place, yet many of them are still in pilot stage. . . . more

Target To Open First Store In Harlem

After years of flirting with Manhattan, the bull's-eye has landed in East Harlem.

Target's first store on the New York island officially opens Sunday -- with merchandise tailored to the neighborhood, including Spanish-language greeting cards, multicultural dolls, religious candles and renowned Southern food produced locally. It's a key step in the discounter's push into urban markets to fuel its growth.. . . more

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Microsoft Plans "Dozens" of Retail Stores

Microsoft is planning to open "dozens" of retail stores, beyond the four that currently exist, the company's COO said recently.

According to Softpedia, Microsoft COO Kevin Turner made the comments during the company's recent Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC). "We're going to build dozens more stores. And we're just getting started on that. And we're going to keep building them," Turner reportedly said at the event. . . . more

Email Still Driving Shopping over Social

Most consumers prefer communications by email

Several retailers can attest to the sometimes overwhelming power of promotional messages on social channels. But despite the hype of viral coupons testing retailers’ agility, studies suggest email is still the more effective promotional channel. . . . more

U.S. restaurant count continues to fall

The number of restaurants in the United States has fallen by 5,204 units, a 1-percent decline from the total number of eateries recorded in spring of 2009, according to The NPD Group.

Independent restaurants took the hardest hits, while chains kept their unit counts relatively stable, the market research firm’s “Spring 2010 ReCount” found.. . . more

RadioShack suitors reportedly drop out

TPG Capital plans to drop out of bidding for RadioShack Corp., according to a person briefed on the talks.

Blackstone Group LP, which had weighed a joint offer with Fort Worth-based TPG, is not likely to pursue the electronics retailer on its own, said another person with knowledge of the discussions, who asked not to be identified because the process is private. . . . more

Essex, VT CVS Pharmacy to open next month

The newly constructed CVS Pharmacy in Essex will open Aug. 15, company spokesman Mike DeAngelis said.

Construction of the 12,500- square-foot store at the Essex Shoppes and Cinema began a year ago. EuroWest Properties, which owns the shopping plaza, closed its deal with CVS in June 2009.. . . more

Heavyweights in the ring

Mass retailers duke it out for home improvement sales

High-volume mass-market retailers may seem to be marginal competition for home centers and hardware stores, but inspired by the soft economy, they are picking their competitive spots.

Of course, mass-market retailers are important rivals in a couple of critical categories, most of them associated with outdoor living. Recently, one major mass-market player has matched a home center on a major backyard initiative.. . . more

Claiborne to Close Outlet Stores

Liz Claiborne Inc. plans to exit its namesake-branded outlet business in the U.S., aiming to cut losses and redirect its capital.

Chief Executive William McComb said Tuesday that the current fleet of Liz-branded outlets—87 locations in the U.S. and Puerto Rico—was designed to handle clearance for many brands in its portfolio, a plan he called outdated, adding that it no longer makes economic sense, given changes to the company's business strategy. . . . more

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Urban Luxury Retail (Mostly) Hold Up

Luxury urban retail is still a pretty good place to be, according to a recent CB Richard Ellis report looking at rental rates on major corridors in the Americas.

US retail centers of note included in the report were Union Square in San Francisco (up 9.4%); Boston's Newbury Street (up 9.1%); M Street in Georgetown, Washington DC (up 8.8%); Kalakaua Avenue, in Honolulu (flat); and Chicago's Michigan Avenue (flat).. . . more

Seven reasons we won't see a double-dip

For all the talk that there will be a double-dip recession, fundamentals indicate otherwise

It seems these days that half the headlines in the financial media fear a double-dip recession, as do half the conversations on Wall Street. There certainly are risks, not least in Europe’s financial difficulties. But still, there are reasons to question such widespread concerns. History, after all, offers only one true double-dip experience, and that grew out of a policy error. More, the actual data on the economy fly in the face of such an outlook. Following are seven reasons to doubt the double-dip outlook. . . . more

Stores push summertime 'Christmas' sales

Retailers are pumping still more energy this year into trying to get shoppers to loosen their purse strings early for Christmas with sparkly ornaments, holiday music and special prices. In July.

Target Corp. is entering the game for the first time, with a one-day online sale starting Friday on 500 items from clothing to Blu-ray disc players that's modeled after sales typically held Thanksgiving weekend. And Sears and Toys R Us are dramatically promoting "Christmas in July" online and in the stores based on the success they saw in last year's efforts.. . . more

Monday, July 19, 2010

Jennifer Convertibles files for Chapter 11

Jennifer Convertibles has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection following liquidity problems.

The sofabed retailer has agreed with its largest creditor and foreign supplier Haining Mengnu Co. to convert a large part of its pre-filing debt into equity of the company.. . . more

Price Chopper expanding Latham store

The Golub Corp. plans to increase the size of the Price Chopper in Latham, N.Y., making it the company’s biggest store in the Albany region and one of the largest in the chain.

The expansion, which could be finished next year, will add 10,000 square feet, bringing the total to about 87,000 square feet. . . . more

Retail executives bullish on revenue, profitability

Senior retail executives see an improved business picture in 2010 and expect to see even better revenue, profitability and an improving jobs picture in 2011, according to a recent survey conducted by KPMG LLP, the audit, tax and advisory firm.

Almost two-thirds of the survey respondents said overall business conditions in retail were better now than a year ago, in marked contrast to KPMG’s survey last summer when only one-fifth thought so.. . . more

As recovery slows, holidays worry retailers

It may be hot and sticky outside, but stores across the nation are already getting a chill thinking about Christmas.

Retailers are having second thoughts about orders they placed earlier this year, when the economic recovery looked stronger and Americans were more willing to spend money.. . . more

JoS. A. Bank debuts factory concept store

JoS. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. said Thursday it has opened its first factory concept store, in Riverhead, N.Y.

The new store is the first of five the specialty retailer says it will open in fiscal year 2010 as part of the test phase of its new factory store concept.. . . more

Back-to-school spending poised for big gain

Families are expected to spend about 10 percent more on back-to-school apparel and supplies this year, an increase expected to push retailers' haul past $55 billion, the National Retail Federation reports.

The Washington, D.C.-based trade organization said in a new forecast that families are expected to spend an average of $606 on clothes, shoes, supplies and electronics for school this year, up from $549 in 2009. . . . more

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Retailers' weekly sales rise 3.2%

Chain-store sales for the week ended July 10 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 1.5% after two weekly gains. Customer traffic patterns were mixed by segment with discounters and specialty apparel retailers benefiting over the last week. . . . more

Neiman Marcus to open discount store in Rockville, MD

Luxury retailer Neiman Marcus is bringing a new discount store brand called Last Call Studio to Congressional Plaza in Rockville this fall. The 13,300-square-foot shop will be the chain's second location in the country, following Neiman's launch of the concept in its hometown of Dallas in April.

Neiman's rollout of the Studio, a boutique version of its Last Call Clearance Center outlet, comes as sales at luxury department stores have fallen in the face of the downturn, bolstering the case for more off-price shops that appeal to a broader range of consumers. . . . more

Borders to sell stationery maker for $31 million

Borders Group Inc said on Tuesday that it had agreed to sell a British-based retailer of stationery, cards and gifts to Primary Capital Ltd for about $31 million.

Borders said it was required to use
$25 million of the proceeds to reduce the amount outstanding under its $90 million term loan credit facility.. . . more

Monday, July 12, 2010

Consumers saving now but won't curb spending for long

We'd all like to think the Great Recession has taught us a lesson about the dangers of overspending. New terms have entered the popular lexicon: "deleveraging" (a fancy word for paying off debt) and "the new frugality." More than two-thirds of those interviewed for the Thrivent Financial/Kiplinger Survey of Family Finances said they had grown more frugal in the past year.

Americans seem to have become disciples of thrift, but we must ask whether the conversion will stick. The gut says no. . . . more

High Fashion Relents to Web’s Pull

In the genteel world of luxury, companies long felt that the Web was no place for merchandising exclusive products. And there was a gentlemen’s agreement with department stores not to siphon sales by reaching out directly to wealthy customers.

Then, in came the recession, and out went the niceties. Department stores slashed prices on $1,200 handbags, while luxury lines fretted about losing their exclusivity. . . . more

Walmart Makes Too Much of an 'Impact'

There's a legend circulating around Bentonville: Walmart Chairman Lee Scott enters a Friday morning senior-management meeting with two bags of groceries from Harps, the Arkansas retail chain that has somehow survived the dominance of its much bigger hometown rival.

The bags, the story goes, were filled with items Mr. Scott's wife had purchased that week because she couldn't find them at Walmart. The implication: The chain's assortment cutbacks under so-called Project Impact to declutter aisles and make the shopping experience more upscale had gone too far. . . . more

Friday, July 9, 2010

Why Commercial Real Estate Hasn't Been a Disaster (Yet)

Most experts agree that one reason Japan's economy has taken so long to recover from its bubble crash is that Japan's banks spent the first decade in denial.

Specifically, when loans went bad, the banks didn't write the loans off - they lent the bankrupt borrowers more money so the borrowers could keep paying interest on the original loan. Thus, the bank and the borrower could pretend that everything was hunky dory.. . . more

Target card customers getting back on track

Target Corp. reported Thursday that fewer of its cardholders are falling behind on their payments, a positive sign for the company's profitable credit card portfolio.

The credit card operation contributed about 5 percent of pretax profits to the Minneapolis-based retailer in 2009, but it has been hit with high numbers of write-offs during the recession as consumers got into financial trouble.. . . more

Yucaipa's Ron Burkle Fights Barnes & Noble's Poison Pill

Yucaipa Cos.’ Ron Burkle told a judge he wants to improve Barnes & Noble Inc.’s business as he seeks to invalidate the bookseller’s poison-pill defense against takeovers and buy more shares.

Yucaipa accuses Barnes & Noble directors, including Chairman Leonard Riggio, of engineering a “self-dealing scheme designed to entrench the Riggio family” as controlling shareholders and to stymie Burkle’s efforts to gain seats on the board. . . . more

Joining the secondhand fray

The economy’s slowdown has helped fuel the growth of Savers, a 40-year-old chain with 245 stores in the United States and Canada, including 10 in Massachusetts and more on the way. The company, based in Bellevue, Wash., recently opened a store in North Attleborough, and a Framingham Savers is scheduled to start doing business today. A Worcester store will open later this month, and a Savers in West Roxbury is relocating to a more spacious site in Dedham in the fall.

That will give nonprofit Goodwill — which has dominated the secondhand goods market and practically invented the thrift store concept in Boston about 100 years ago — a run for its money.. . . more

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Blockbuster extends chairman's contract

Blockbuster Inc has extended its contract with chairman and CEO Jim Keyes for one year to June 30.

He was granted a retention bonus of $650,000 in cash and 1.25 million shares of the company's class A common stock.. . . more

Mass. business confidence up

The Associated Industries of Massachusetts Business Confidence Index rose 2.2 points in June to 53.7, the business advocacy group reported Tuesday.

A score of 50 is neutral.

“Massachusetts employers report that current business conditions are now mildly favorable, and they are optimistic though not exuberant about continued improvement,” Raymond G. Torto, global chief economist at CB Richard Ellis Group, Inc. and chairman of AIM's Board of Economic Advisors said in a prepared statement.. . . more

A super shift in grocery habits

As Target and Wal-Mart have opened megastores, consumers have followed.

SuperTarget and Wal-Mart have grabbed business nationwide over the past decade by offering one-stop shopping -- everything from pears to pants -- combined with prices that tend to be lower than those at traditional grocery stores.

In some metro markets, Wal-Mart alone has 35 percent or more of the market. In the Twin Cities, the world's largest grocer has a 9.5 percent share through its Supercenters.
. . . more

Warm Weather and Holidays Help June U.S Retail Sales

Warm weather and promotions tied to Memorial Day and Father's Day helped U.S. retailers post higher same-store sales in June, but analysts warned the discount-heavy month might eat into margins.

Limited Brands and teen apparel chains like Abercrombie & Fitch Co, Hot Topic and Zumiez reported some of the biggest gains. Warehouse club Costco Wholesale Corp, however, missed expectations as its stores are closed on Memorial Day.. . . more

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Borders Group Inc. launches electronic book store

Borders Group Inc. has launched its e-bookstore as it tries to catch up to competitors who have a head-start in a small but growing market that's seen as the future of the book industry.

The company said Wednesday its goal with the new store and e-reader is to take 17 percent of the electronic book market by next July. Amazon has the Kindle e-reader and Barnes & Noble Inc. has the Nook, and all the players are cutting prices to woo buyers.. . . more

Retail sales growing at fastest clip in four years

Retailers’ sales are growing at the fastest pace in four years, a sign consumers may be overcoming concern about unemployment and depressed home values.

Sales probably expanded at an average monthly rate of 4 percent in the first five months of the retail fiscal year that began Jan. 31, the biggest gain since 2006, the International Council of Shopping Centers trade group said in advance of its June report tomorrow.. . . more

Shopping Center Vacancy Rates Rose in Second Quarter

Retailers shuttered more stores in U.S. shopping centers during the second quarter, further delaying a rebound in the struggling retail real estate market, according to research firm Reis Inc.

Shopping centers and strip malls have been pounded harder than other types of real estate, hurt by weak consumer spending, anemic job growth and an oversupply built to serve new housing that never materialized.. . . more

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Suffolk Downs unveils casino proposal

As negotiators in the state Legislature prepared to hash out a final gambling bill, the owners of the Suffolk Downs race track today unveiled their proposal for a resort-stye casino at the East Boston facility.

Track owners said if given permission to operate, they could immediately create as many as 2,000 construction jobs and another 2,250 permanent jobs once the gaming complex is open.. . . more