Friday, April 29, 2011

Carter's profits shrink with high cotton prices, bad weather

Children's clothing retailer Carter's saw its profits fall as it dealt with rising cotton prices, the impact of a late Easter holiday and sales hurt by bad weather.

Despite a 10 percent decrease in cotton prices since March, executives said they still intend to raise clothing prices to offset overall higher cotton prices. Carter's has done so modestly thus far, but expects to do so more uniformly going forward. . . more

Smoothie King is coming to the Hub

Smoothie King, a chain whose specialties include nutritional, fruit-based smoothies, said it has scheduled a grand opening for its new "lifestyle center" at 314 Newbury St. in Boston tomorrow. The franchise company, which has nearly 600 locations worldwide, said the new store will be the first Smoothie King in Massachusetts. . . more

TD Bank planning growth in state

TD Bank, the fourth-largest retail bank in Massachusetts, is ramping up its expansion. After adding seven branches in Massachusetts last year, TD Bank plans to open as many as 15 more by the end of 2012, the company’s regional president said yesterday. And TD Bank is considering relocating several branches to better locations and adding standalone automatic teller machine kiosks. . . more

Consumer spending and incomes both rise in March

Americans earned and spent more in March, but much of the extra money went to pay for gas.

Personal incomes rose 0.5 percent last month and consumer spending increased 0.6 percent, the Commerce Department reported Friday. But after adjusting for inflation, spending rose only 0.2 percent and after-tax incomes Americans earned and spent more in March, but much of the extra money went to pay for gas. But after adjusting for inflation, spending rose only 0.2 percent and after-tax incomes were essentially flat.were essentially flat.. . . more

McDonald’s Hires 62,000 in U.S. Event, 24% More Than Planned

McDonald's Corp., the world’s biggest restaurant chain, said it hired 24 percent more people than planned during an employment event this month.

McDonald’s and its franchisees hired 62,000 people in the U.S. after receiving more than one million applications, the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company said today in an e-mailed statement. Previously, it said it planned to hire 50,000. . . . more

Lord & Taylor to debut new concept

As he mulls taking Hudson’s Bay Co. public this year, the U.S. owner of the iconic department-store retailer is turning his attention to a risky but potentially lucrative specialty-store expansion.

Richard Baker, a Purchase, N.Y.-based real estate heavyweight, will roll out HBC’s Home Outfitters chain by testing two new upscale home-goods stores in New Jersey starting in late summer. If successful, he will take the concept – dubbed Lord & Taylor Home after his U.S. department-store chain – farther afield in the United States.. . . more

Apollo eyes BJ's Wholesale

Private equity firm Apollo Global Management LLC  is eyeing warehouse retailer BJ's Wholesale Club Inc, which could fit with its Smart & Final chain, a source familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

BJ's, the third-largest U.S. wholesale club retailer, has a market capitalization of about $2.7 billion.. . . more

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Darden looks to double size of LongHorn Steakhouse over 10 years

Darden Restaurants plans to roughly double the size of LongHorn Steakhouse during the next 10 years. . . more

Simon Property will manage Fox Run Mall

Simon Property Group, the Indiana company that has ownership interests in 16 Massachusetts malls including Burlington Mall, Copley Place, Northshore Mall, and South Shore Plaza, said that it will assume leasing, management, and marketing duties at the Fox Run Mall in Newington, N.H. . . more

GGP’s Same Store-Sales Rise 7%

Locally based General Growth Properties, which emerged from bankruptcy late last year, is working on cleaning up its balance sheet. The REIT has posted a 7.3% same-store sales gain from first quarter 2010 to first quarter 2011, and is working to sell assets and raise capital to pay off debt.

The company also reported that regional mall occupancy increased 40 basis points to 92.4% from Q1 2010. The REIT signed 2.2 million square feet of leases during the first quarter, and has sold $300 million of non-core assets since November. . . . more

Bay State metros report construction gains

Massachusetts endured a year-over-year net loss of 1,300 construction jobs in March, although 10 of the state’s 12-largest metros still managed to hold even or add jobs during the year-long span.

According to new data from the Associated General Contractors of America, seven of the Bay State’s largest cities and towns actually saw construction payrolls expand in the period analyzed, with the Leominster-Fitchburg region showing the largest year-over-year gain on a percentage basis (up 14.3 percent). The region’s construction-industry headcount was 1,600 people as of March 31, versus 1,400 a year earlier.. . . more

Wilson Farms selling chain to 7-Eleven

7-Eleven Inc. has agreed to buy the Wilson Farms convenience store chain, an ownership change that eventually will result in the rebranding and franchising of the stores, company officials say.

Terms of the deal, which was announced Wednesday and is expected to close by June, were not disclosed. The Wilson Farms chain consists of 188 stores in New York State.. . . more

Amazon packing after House vote

Amazon all but told South Carolina goodbye Wednesday after the online retailer lost a legislative showdown on a sales tax collection exemption it wants to open a distribution center that would bring 1,249 jobs to the Midlands.

Company officials immediately halted plans to equip and staff the one million-square-foot building under construction at I-77 and 12th Street near Cayce.. . . mores

Tiffany plans Newton mall move

Luxury jeweler Tiffany & Co. is planning this fall to close its large shop at the Atrium Mall in Newton and move across the street to the Mall at Chestnut Hill.

It’s the latest high-profile tenant to leave the struggling Atrium Mall, which has an estimated 25 percent vacancy rate, according to KeyPoint Partners, a Burlington commercial real estate service firm.. . . more

Starbucks becomes No. 3 restaurant chain

Starbucks might have started as a coffee shop, but it now counts as a chain restaurant -- and it's become the third-largest in the U.S.

When measured by sales dollars, McDonald's tops the chart, and Subway comes in second. Starbucks is No. 3, according to a study by research firm Technomic. Not bad for a company that closed thousands of stores and went through its own mini-crisis in the economic recession. . . . more

OfficeMax profit plummets as revenue shrinks

Office Max Inc. said Thursday that its net income fell 53 percent in the first quarter, as customers spent less and profit margins got thinner.

The company blamed bad weather, store discounts and "an unfavorable product sales mix shift" in the technology department, which likely means that customers bought cheaper products.. . . more

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Consumer Confidence in U.S. Increases More Than Estimated Amid Job Gains

Confidence among U.S. consumers increased more than forecast in April, signaling the improving labor market is helping Americans weather rising fuel costs.

The Conference Board’s confidence index rose to 65.4 from a revised 63.8 reading in March, figures from the New York-based private research group showed today. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called projected an advance to 64.5. . . . more

SuperValu Plans 160 New Save-A-Lot Stores

Locally based SuperValu, a $38-billion-a-year grocery chain with almost 4,300 stores of various brands, plans to increase its value footprint with value division Save-A-Lot by 160 new stores this year. The firm had a same-store sale loss on its regular retail chains, including Jewel and Cub Foods, and will not be expanding those stores.. . . more

Starbucks Recaptures its Position at the Head of the U.S. Coffee Market

After spending two years trying to find its way, Starbucks has righted its ship in the ever competitive coffee wars.

During the course of the recession, the Seattle-based chain was forced to close hundreds of stores and reevaluate its sales and growth strategies as it struggled to keep customers away from lower-priced competitors Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald's Cafe. The multi-layered overhaul paid off—while Dunkin’ Donuts and McDonald’s continue to do well, Starbucks has reclaimed its dominant position in the U.S. market and even plans to open more domestic stores in the near future.. . . more's profit tumbles more than expected said Tuesday that its net income fell 33 percent in the latest quarter, a steeper drop than Wall Street expected as the online retailer poured more money into expanding its operations.

While Amazon's profit was a disappointment, its revenue topped expectations. The company's management says that the stronger sales mean Amazon needs more warehouses and upgraded technology, which require bigger investments that cut into earnings.. . . more

Wal-Mart Making US Store Momentum 'Critical' Priority

For Wal-Mart, the nation's largest retailer, getting its U.S. sales back into positive territory is a crucial undertaking.

In terms of growth for the company, turning domestic comparable sales around are key, Chief Executive Mike Duke said Tuesday at an industry conference. While Duke said he didn't know when Wal-Mart would break what is so far seven straight quarters of falling same-store sales, he did say "traction" is being seen.  . . . more

Refreshing Fresh & Easy

Since its first U.S. store opened in 2007 in Los Angeles, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Markets Inc., the grocery/convenience subsidiary of London-based Tesco PLC, has been losing money. Badly.  Last week, Tesco, the world's third-largest retailer, said that its U.S. subsidiary lost more than $300 million for the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

Part of the chain's red ink is because of the recession and still-shaky economy, said the report. Another reason is the company's too-rapid expansion in California, Arizona and Nevada, going from zero to 172 stores in less than four years; 50 more store openings are planned by the end of the current fiscal year, which ends next February.
. . . more

Monday, April 25, 2011

Time to Pay More (Tax) Attention?

I’ve recently been recalling a seminar I attended in Columbus, Ohio back in the mid-80s. One of the speakers there discussed the notion that in the near future we were going to have the ability to purchase merchandise electronically. By sitting down in front of a computer, connecting with the outside world using something called “the internet”, and communicating with a retail entity, we would actually be able to complete a transaction, after which we would receive said merchandise at home without having to enter a store at all. . . more

Starbucks Targets Folks Who Wouldn’t Be Caught Dead at Starbucks

As a brand manager and later as global strategy chief at Starbucks Corp., Michelle Gass championed such popular innovations as green straws, domed frappe lids and the Frappuccino. In August of 2009, Chief Executive Officer Howard Shultz handed Gass a challenge far removed from Starbucks’s core: Remake Seattle’s Best Coffee, the brand the coffee giant had acquired eight years earlier.

Today Seattle’s Best, which has 325 namesake cafes (vs. more than 17,000 at its larger sibling), is sold in more than 50,000 locations in the U.S. and Canada, 12 times as many as a year ago. . . . more

Wegmans, Walgreens settle their legal dispute over logos

Wegmans Food Markets has agreed to settle a lawsuit brought by Walgreens that challenged the Rochester grocery chain's use of logos that Walgreens said infringed on its trademarks.

Under terms of the settlement, Wegmans agreed to discontinue using the “circle W” symbol on its Wegmans-brand product packaging by June 30, 2012. Wegmans retained the right to use the name “Wegmans” in script.. . . more

New Bloomingdale's Outlet Store to Open in Wrentham, MA

Macy's, Inc. today announced locations for three new Bloomingdale's Outlet stores to open in fall 2011. They will join the first four Bloomingdale's Outlet stores opened in fall 2010 as the concept was launched.
Stores will open in the following shopping centers with an upscale outlet store focus:

  • Miromar Outlets, Estero, FL (25,000 square feet; opening planned for September 2011);
  • Wrentham Village Premium Outlets, Wrentham, MA (24,000 square feet; opening planned for October 2011);
  • Woodfield Village Green, Schaumburg, IL (24,000 square feet; opening planned for October 2011). . . . more

The Internet Taxman Cometh

Online shoppers could soon find themselves paying more for their purchases if state policymakers succeed in convincing Congress to sign off on a multistate sales tax cartel for the Internet.

While America doesn’t have a national sales tax, some state officials have spent the last 15 years scheming to devise a more unified sales tax regime so they can force mail-order and online sellers to collect sales tax for states where they have no operations. And now some in Congress appear ready to lend them a hand with legislation that would bless state efforts to impose taxes on interstate commerce, something usually blocked by the Commerce Clause of the Constitution.. . . more

Got groceries? Wal-Mart is testing home delivery

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Saturday that it is testing home grocery delivery in San Jose, Calif., as the world's largest retailer ratchets up competition with online retailer Inc.

With "Walmart To Go," customers can order groceries, health and beauty products, over-the-counter medicines and household supplies like paper towels and laundry detergent from the company's website.. . . more

Judge approves Borders' executive bonus plan with several conditions attached

A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge today approved Ann Arbor-based Borders Group Inc.'s plan to distribute bonuses to its executives if the company hits certain benchmarks, including a successful emergence from bankruptcy.

The plan was scaled back after objections by the U.S. government and the company's unsecured creditors. It is also tied to several conditions that must be met before the bonuses are distributed.. . . more

Friday, April 22, 2011

IMAX theater complex approved in Greenland, NH

Get your popcorn ready, because it's almost show time in Greenland.

It took several lengthy meetings to address the town's concerns, but Cinemagic gained the Planning Board's conditional approval Thursday night to construct a 49,000-square-foot, 12-screen theater and IMAX complex on Route 33.. . . more

Wal-Mart acquiring social media firm to rev social e-commerce

Wal-Mart Stores said Monday it is acquiring Mountain View, Calif.-based social media company Kosmix to help strengthen its social and mobile commerce.

Wal-Mart, which has not disclosed the terms of the transaction, said it is interested in a social media technology platform Kosmix has developed that filters and organizes content in social networks to connect people with information that may be of interest to them.. . . more

J.C. Penney CEO: High price of cotton is one of biggest challenges

The high price of cotton is one of the biggest challenges that J.C. Penney Co. faces this year, chairman and CEO Mike Ullman said during a panel discussion at Southern Methodist University, the Dallas Business Journal reported.

Cotton prices in March hit their highest levels in decades after floods in Australia and Pakistan and freezes in China wiped out farmers' crops. That means consumers will see rising clothing prices for the first time in more than 20 years, Ullman said, who predicted increases of 5% to 20%.. . . more

Borders Said to Be Seeking at Least $50 Million in Additional Financing

Borders Group Inc., the bankrupt book chain, is seeking at least $50 million in additional financing as sales trail expectations and publishers demand cash in advance, said two people who have seen the chain’s plans to reorganize.

The funds are needed to help Borders emerge from its in- court restructuring, said the people, who declined to be identified because the process isn’t public. The retailer already has a $505 million debtor-in-possession loan, which offers sufficient capital for the next few months, the people said. The retailer may risk liquidation without further investment, easier terms from vendors or a buyer, they said. . . . more

Thursday, April 21, 2011

McCormick & Schmick’s rejects buyout offer

McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants Inc. on Wednesday rejected a $137.3 million hostile bid by Tilman J. Fertitta and a subsidiary of his Landry’s Restaurants Inc.

Douglas Schmick, chairman of the 96-unit Portland, Ore.-based upscale seafood chain, said in a statement that McCormick & Schmick’s board “believes that the LSRI Holdings offer undervalues the company, is highly conditional, opportunistically timed and seeks to advance the financial and competitive interests of LSRI Holdings at the expense of all other McCormick & Schmick’s stockholders.”. . . more

Somerville aldermen debate the core and shell of Assembly Square DIF

This past Wednesday, April 13, Ward 6 Alderman Rebekah Gewirtz challenged the core of Mayor Joseph Curtatone’s Assembly Square District Improvement Financing (DIF) plan, arguing that Somerville taxpayers cannot afford to shell out for the project.

At a public hearing with the Board of Aldermen, Gewirtz said the city can’t afford to post $25 million in bonds for new infrastructure in Assembly Square.  . . . more

Amazon to allow library lending of Kindle books Inc will start allowing users of the Kindle to borrow e-books from many US public libraries later this year in its latest move to speed the adoption of its electronic reading device.

Amazon, the world's largest online retailer by sales, said that Kindle owners will be able to borrow e-books from 11,000 libraries and make electronic annotations in the books but did not give the exact timing of the service's launch.. . . more

NYC slated for its first Athleta store

Look out fitness junkies! New York's first Athleta, the sportswear brand owned by Gap Inc., will open later this year on the Upper West Side. The company signed on for nearly 3,500 square feet at 216 Columbus Ave., at West 70th Street. Though the store is not expected to open until this fall, Gap is already sniffing around for more Manhattan locations, according to sources.

“It's a fantastic fit for the neighborhood,” said Alex Brodsky of the Brodsky Organization, the landlord for the site, a former Lucky Brand Jeans outpost. He noted its proximity of the Reebok Gym and said that Athleta will offer shoppers a lower-priced alternative to yogawear from the costly Lululemon Athletica located nearby on Broadway.. . . more

Outsourcing Services Remain Popular as Retailers Eye Expansion

The challenges of the recession forced retailers to change their strategies to stay afloat, and as the economy begins to improve, more retailers no longer see growth as an end in itself.

Retail firms now aim to grow smarter, making the most of existing properties and exercising more caution in deciding when and where to expand. This shift has only continued to spur interest among retailers in outsourcing real estate services to outside brokerages, continuing a trend that persisted throughout the recession.. . . more

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

A Whole Foods fight in Boston

As Jamaica Plain's demography has shifted, so too have the community's retail needs. For 47 years, the Hi-Lo grocery store provided J.P. residents with staple items and a vast stock of Latin American products. But when Knapp Food group, the Massachusetts-based owners of Hi-Lo, decided that they had had enough of the supermarket business, they pulled out of Jamaica Plain, shuttered a local landmark, and negotiated a 20-year lease with Austin, Texas-based grocery giant Whole Foods.

You can guess what happened next.. . . more

Pacific Sales to open inside Best Buy

A "store within a store" is scheduled for a soft opening Tuesday inside the Best Buy on Rosedale Highway, marking the 45th location of Pacific Sales -- and the Southern California-based chain's first in the Central Valley.

With about 6,000 square feet and seven employees, Pacific Sales Kitchen and Home expects to sell a wide array of appliances, plumbing goods and kitchen vignettes. The store offers free delivery and free installation on many items.. . . more

Bob's Discount Furniture to open two D.C.-area stores in June

Bob's Discount Furniture will open its first two Mid-Atlantic stores Memorial Day weekend, making good on its previously announced plans to expand into the greater Washington, D.C., area from its Northeast base this year.

The 40-store Top 100 company will open approximately 30,000-square-foot showrooms in Falls Church, Va., and Hyattsville, Md. - about the typical size for a Bob's showroom, said CEO Ted English. In Falls Church, the promotional to midpriced retailer is leasing a former Office Depot and in Hyattsville, a former Circuit City.. . . more

Regional Mall Owners Seize Power, Lifestyle Center Tenants

As other retail formats struggle to keep vacancies in check, regional mall owners are aiming to take advantage of current market conditions to siphon off tenants.

Over the past 12 months, retailers that have traditionally operated freestanding stores or taken locations in power and lifestyle centers have increasingly signed leases at enclosed regional malls, say four property owners and three consultants Retail Traffic spoke to. If the trend continues, it could help regional malls remain retail mainstays in their trade areas, these sources say.. . . more

Bedford, NH developments surging

Kohl's is slated to open at the Bedford Mall on South River Rd in 2012. Built in 1967, the tired mall is getting a major overhaul.

Also Market Basket is planned for the former Golfland site, Route 114 and Donald St in Bedford. Plans call for a 78,000 square foot grocery store and associated road improvements, including a roundabout on Donald St. Developers hope for a 2012 opening. . . more

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Jordan’s Furniture to open R.I. store

Jordan’s Furniture is expanding into Rhode Island with plans announced today to open an Ocean State store next year.

The 100,000-square-foot store — Jordan’s fifth overall — will serve as one of the anchor tenants at the Warwick Mall, joining Macy’s, Target and JC Penney.. . . more

Flower shop owner takes over former CVS in downtown Foxboro

Blooming with confidence in Foxboro's downtown, the owner of Judy's Village Flowers has purchased the former CVS building.

Foxboro resident Judy Duffy said she paid almost $1 million to buy the three-floor building, where her family-run flower shop has been a tenant for 21 years.
. . . more

American Apparel Seeking Financing

American Apparel Inc., the clothing manufacturer known for risqué advertising, is racing to seal a deal for up to $10 million in rescue financing to avoid a bankruptcy filing, said a person familiar with the matter.

The Los Angeles-based company has held talks with an individual investor in recent days who has expressed interest in providing money for the retailer, run by controversial Chief Executive Dov Charney. The money would come in the form of equity, this person said. The potential investor, whose identity couldn't be determined, isn't a well-known name, this person said. The company hopes to secure a deal as soon as this week.. . . more

Brickyard Shopping Plaza To Receive a Well-Deserved Facelift

Berlin Mayor Adam Salina announced that Cedar Shopping Centers has received approval from the Berlin, CT Planning and Zoning Commission of a site plan application for the renovation of the Brickyard Shopping Center at 225-295 Berlin Turnpike.

The plan calls for the demolition of the former Sam’s Club building and the construction of over 90,000 square feet of new building in its place. The proposed project will also involve the renovation of the façade of the Syms/Filenes Basement store and Imperial Buffet restaurant.. . . more

Harvest to Open Grocery Store in Jamaica Plain's Forest Hills Neighborhood

Harvest Co-op, the locally-owned organic grocer, has signed a letter of intent to put a store near the Forest Hills T.

The new location would be in the "Arboretum Project" on a parcel along Washington Street, according to Harvest General Manager Mike St. Clair. Harvest has also won the right to be the anchor store for a new development in the Fenway.. . . more

Wal-Mart Hopes Smaller Stores Will Mean Big Gains

Wal-Mart has announced plans to build as many as 40 mid-sized grocery stores and "express" marts this year.

The world's largest retailer hopes that the strategy will help it compete with burgeoning dollar-store chains and drugstores — and move into smaller shopping districts. And that has some smaller merchants worried.. . . more

Monday, April 18, 2011

Web tax on tap

Fed looks to bail out strapped state coffers

The e-tax man cometh.

As early as this week, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) told The Post he will propose sweeping legislation to tax all online purchases -- in a move aimed at closing state budget shortfalls.

Such a tax would plow more than $1 billion in tax revenues into the state coffers for the 2012 budget, according to some estimates. . . . more

Permitted to grow: Newton restaurants rebound

The city of Newton appears to be leading the restaurant industry’s slow recovery in Massachusetts, as restaurateurs seek to take advantage of more affordable real estate, improved consumer confidence and looser credit from banks.

Statewide, the industry is expected to expand by around 5 percent this year due to improving economic conditions in general, according to the Restaurant Association of Massachusetts.. . . more

Vacancy rates in malls are riding

Even as the economy picks up steam, many of the nation's malls and shopping centers are suffering a hangover due to changing consumer habits and the fallout from a massive building boom.

Mall vacancies hit their highest level in at least 11 years in the first quarter, new figures from real-estate research company Reis Inc. showed. In the top 80 U.S. markets, the average vacancy rate was 9.1 percent, up from 8.7 percent.. . . more

Big Lots looks at bigger stores

Big Lots is taking advantage of lower rents to use the Twin Cities as a test market for its drive to broaden its appeal from the "dollar store" shopper to a more well-heeled suburban clientele by signing leases in "A" locations and building bigger, better stores.

Big Lots officials said last month in a conference call that they're pursuing a strategy of leasing "A-type locations." Of the 80 new stores opened in 2010, 33 were in such locations. Some 90 new stores are planned for 2011, with 25 to 30 of them in more upscale shopping centers around the country.. . . more

The British are coming

Overseas retailers flock to NYC

Foreign retailers are more eager than ever to step into city stores.

“The European retailer that was nervous about coming over the pond, is now…interested in coming here to New York,” declared Nina Kampler, who heads tri-state retail and urban markets for CB Richard Ellis and just returned from London. “They know what they have to offer is different, and it will resonate with the consumer.”. . . more

Friday, April 15, 2011

Consumer Prices in U.S. Probably Climbed on Jump in Fuel, Food

The cost of living in the U.S. probably rose in March for a ninth consecutive month, led by increasing costs for food and fuel, economists said before a report today.

The consumer-price index climbed 0.5 percent for a second month, capping the biggest back-to-back gains since 2008, according to the median estimate of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News. . . . more

BJ's Wholesale Gets Approvals in Brookfield, CT

Mike Fitzpatrick, the project manager for the proposed BJ’s Wholesale Club and adjoining restaurant in the north section of the Kohl’s shopping plaza on Federal Road, said now that the projects have been approved by the town boards, an application would be submitted within days to the State Traffic Commission (STC) and construction could start by next spring.

Brian McCarthy, the civil engineer for the project, said it would include a 124,560-square-foot BJ’s Wholesale Club and a 3,200-square-foot restaurant.. . . more

Best Buy to shrink big stores in new strategy

Best Buy plans to open hundreds of smaller mobile stores and expand online and in China in an effort to be more competitive as consumers increasingly shop online.

The largest U.S. electronics retailer plans to shrink square footage at big-box stores by 10 percent over the next three to five years, a move that Best Buy said eventually will save it $70 million to $80 million annually.. . . more

Are Retailers Making a Big Mistake in Small Stores?

If you feel like the walls are closing in around you, you're not imagining things. Retailers from Wal-Mart to Office Depot are abandoning the big-box concept in favor of stores with a smaller footprint. Where once the thinking was to wring as many sales as possible out of a given space, now managers are trying to squeeze every bit of margin they can out of just the most profitable parts of their business.

This phenomenon might be best exemplified by consumer electronics giant Best Buy, which has seen sales of big-screen TVs falter while smaller, more profitable handsets soar. By focusing on what's keeping it going these days and opening up stand-alone stores to sell mobile devices, the retailer is hoping to reverse a decline in its operations. . . more

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Mass. unemployment rate drops to 8 percent

The unemployment rate in Massachusetts fell to 8 percent in March, the lowest point in nearly two years, according to the state's Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development.

Last March, the state's unemployment rate was 8.7 percent , but has steadily eased downward during the last year. The state's rate also remains below the nation's 8.8 percent unemployment rate.. . . more

Retail Center Owners Take a More Active Approach to Energy Management

Ever since the outbreak of the financial crisis in 2008, cost control has been on the agenda for retail real estate firms. In the face of declining incomes and property values, companies have reduced head count, slashed budgets, and tried anything else they could come up with to cut down on how much money they spend. In many cases, they’ve deferred maintenance and cut back on cleaning schedules at properties.

In many areas, firms have cut to the bone. But there’s one place where there is still room for continued savings: energy. And given that energy costs are rising, the pressure to make properties more efficient is even higher. Indeed, although going Green is a goal for many firms, the incentive of cutting costs has proven to be a greater driver of improvements in energy management at shopping centers.

“There’s been a push to reduce expenses and to become as efficient as possible so we can protect assets and protect NOI,” says Alicia Busconi, vice president of property and asset management for Burlington, Mass.-based KeyPoint Partners LLC, which manages 230 retail properties across 13 states. “That forced us to look at properties with fresh eyes.” . . . more

American Eagle’s new 77kids store puts focus on younger kids

Teen retailer American Eagle is targeting even younger shoppers with the recent opening of its children's store, 77kids, at Twelve Oaks in Novi.

The Novi store, which opened two weeks ago, outfits babies, infants, toddlers, children and pre-teens. It is riding a new trend where parents — more affluent and with fewer children than their counterparts of generations past — are dressing their younger children in their own stylish image, retail consultants say.. . . more

Superfresh parent wants to sell 22 Maryland stores

In a move that could signal the end of the Superfresh grocery store franchise in Maryland, the chain's parent company, which operates more than two dozen stores in the state, said Wednesday it wants to sell most of its local outlets as part of a plan to emerge from bankruptcy protection.

The Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. of Montvale, N.J., said it plans to seek bankruptcy court approval to sell 22 stores in Maryland, two stores in Delaware and one in Washington. . . . more

Retail Sales Rise for Ninth Straight Month

Sales at U.S. retailers rose in March for a ninth consecutive month, easing concern that the jump in food and fuel costs would cause consumers to retrench.

Purchases increased 0.4 percent following a 1.1 percent February gain that was larger than previously estimated, Commerce Department figures showed today in Washington. . . . more

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Levi's promotes new store on Newbury Street

Levi’s is mounting a bicycle marketing campaign of sorts to get out the word about its new boutique on Newbury Street and a new collection showcased there called “Made Here.”

Bicyclists have been riding around the Newbury Street area handing people flowers from Winston Flowers, according to a Levi’s spokesman. Attached to each of the flowers is a label telling recipients to drop by the Levi’s new 1,345-square-foot boutique at 131 Newbury St. for a chance to win a vintage Roadmaster Luxury Liner Bike. The Levi’s boutique will be accepting entries through mid-afternoon tomorrow, and plans call for the winner to be announced on Monday, the spokesman said. . . more

A.J. Wright distribution center placed on the market for $17M

A.J. Wright’s distribution center on Commerce Drive has been listed for sale, two months after the 500,000-square-foot building was closed along with the 162-store retail chain.

The 27.5-acre parcel has been listed with Philadelphia-based real estate firm Binswanger for $17 million. The company said in a press release that it is aggressively marketing the site to a variety of users, including retail and wholesale traders, warehousing companies and manufacturers of products like food, paper, plastics, machinery and furniture . . more

Entertainment Properties buys four Cinemagic theaters

Entertainment Properties Trust has bought four stadium theater properties from Cinemagic Theatres in a $36.8 million sale-leaseback deal, as well as sold a property in Toronto for about $235.4 million.

The New Hampshire and Maine theaters include 56 screens and more than 7,000 seats. The deal included Entertainment Properties  assuming a $3.8 million mortgage loan on one of the theaters. . . . more

Microsoft Store Success Requires Bolder Moves

Redmond has been copying Apple by opening glitzy stores, but the company will need to change its offerings to succeed in retail.

If imitation is really the sincerest form of flattery, Microsoft has been tossing compliments at Apple left and right with its new Microsoft retail stores. Not only are Microsoft stores taking up positions near Apple stores, but they have adopted much of the Apple feel. Yet beneath the surface, the two stores are as different as the products they sell. . . . more

Wal-Mart Plans to Reduce Space for Electronics in Stores

Wal-Mart Stores Inc., the world’s biggest retailer, plans to cut back on space for electronics as sales in that category have declined, contributing to the company’s two-year U.S. sales slump.

The company will reduce the floor space devoted to items like flat-screen televisions and give some of that space to apparel, according to Rosalind Brewer, who runs the Wal-Mart East division. Brewer spoke at a retail conference in Atlanta today.. . . more

Firehouse Subs Looking to Open 69 Locations in the Boston Area

It looks like a chain of quick-casual restaurants that feature hot subs is getting ready to enter the Boston-area market in a big way.

 Firehouse Subs is planning to expand into nine states, including Massachusetts, with 69 franchises proposed for the Boston area alone. The article mentions that the Jacksonville-based chain, which currently has 416 locations, is looking to open 429 new spots, including in Iowa, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Texas.. . . more

Framingham selectmen vote down liquor superstore

Hearing the concerns of local liquor store owners worried about the competition, selectmen last night denied Big Y Foods Inc. permission to open a wine and liquor superstore on Rte. 30.

The board voted 5-0 against plans for Table & Vine, a 42,000-square-foot store proposed to go into the former Filene's Basement at 341 Cochituate Road.. . . more

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Is Crumbs Doomed in Cupcake Bubble?

Crumbs Bake Shop, the fashionable cupcake bakery, is going public. The brand is expanding quickly with 35 new stores. Some investors are concerned that this company is doomed because of a coming cupcake bubble much in the way Krispy Kreme crashed and burned.. . . more