Friday, January 29, 2016

H&M Will Again Open More Than One Store Per Day This Year

An H&M store in Vienna. Photo: Mathias Kniepeiss/Getty Images
As of November 30, when H&M's fiscal year ended, the Swedish fast fashion retailer had 3,924 stores in operation in 61 countries, employing more than 148,000 people. In its two largest markets, Germany and the United States, it had 449 and 415 locations up and running, respectively. That's a lot. But when asked by investors on a Thursday morning webcast whether H&M's brick-and-mortar spread will level off in the near term, maybe give way to an e-commerce push, brand execs confidently maintained that they see potential to expand the store fleet for "many years." They're aiming for 10 to 15 percent store growth annually.. . . more

Big CRE Brokers Race to Bulk Up Retail Offerings

With retail real estate inching closer to finally hitting the sweet spot in its cycle, large CRE services companies have been steadily expanding their retail brokerage, property management and advisory capabilities.

In addition to keeping pace with accelerating deal volume, many see opportunity in advising on often complex space and site requirements as chains reassess their brick-and-mortar needs in the age of e-commerce. CBRE, JLL, Colliers International and Newmark Grubb Knight Frank have all recently made moves to bulk up their retail offerings. . . . more

What Is Brookfield’s Play with Rouse?

We’ve all heard and read the less-than-positive rhetoric about class-B malls—sales are down, department store anchors are going dark, inline tenants are leaving and e-commerce is stealing customers away.

So why did Brookfield Asset Management make an offer to buy Rouse Properties, the smallest cap REIT in the B mall sector?. . . more

Nordstrom Is Opening a Second NYC Store at Columbus Circle

Midtown is getting not one, but two Nordstrom department stores in the coming years. WWD reports that the Seattle-based retailer has signed for three floors and 43,000 square feet at 3 Columbus Circle, just a block west from where the 285,000-square foot store that we've been waiting on for about half a decade will be located. Why? Because 285,000 square feet wasn't enough.

"We are thrilled to be able to add square footage to our footprint for our future store in Manhattan," co-president Pete Nordstrom told the paper. "We believe it will allow us to amplify our offering, helping us put our best foot forward in the best retail city in the world.". . . more

Macy's Lowers Its Q4 And Full Year Guidance

Image result for macy's brooklyn ny storeMacy's Inc. announced on Friday it has completed a previously announced and expected real estate transaction with Tishman Speyer that will enable the re-creation of its Brooklyn store on Fulton Street.

Macy's owns and operates the first four floors and lower level of its nine-story Fulton Street retail store which will undergo a three-year remodeling initiative. Tishman Speyer acquired the remaining portion of the store site and will pay Macy's $270 million in cash, of which the company has allocated $100 million to remodel its store.. . . more

Amazon shows why it’s every retailer’s nightmare

It was a happy holiday season at where fourth quarter profits more than doubled, sales increased 22% and the company handily surpassed annual sales of $100 billion for the first time. said its net sales increased 22% to $35.7 billion in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2015, compared with $29.3 billion in fourth quarter 2014. With a $1.2 billion unfavorable impact from year-over-year changes in foreign exchange rates, fourth quarter sales would have increased 26%.. . . more

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Mom & Pop Tenants, Reconsidered

Sr. Associate Michael Branton writes about smaller tenants in the latest KeyPoints retail newsletter:

It began in a small health food store in Austin, Texas; a sporting goods store in New York City; and a general store in Arkansas. While the names may be different, many powerhouses in retailing today have their origins in the “Mom & Pop” stores of yesteryear.

And yet, in today’s retail environment, Mom & Pop stores are often overlooked - and perhaps under-appreciated - by retail landlords. The reasons why could be debated endlessly, but one can make a strong case that the value of Mom & Pop stores should be assessed more carefully. After all, a long time ago, the three retailers mentioned above, better known as Whole Foods, Abercrombie & Fitch and Wal-Mart, were not the retail aristocracy that they are today...more

Circuit City Set To Return This Spring

The new Circuit City will embrace MAP and UPP pricing, build margins into its private-label assortment, and will stick to a small-box retail format in affordable yet densely-populated real estate markets.

The stores themselves will range from 2,000 to 4,000 square feet, and will feature product zones that present the assortment by category and brand.

Ronny Shmoel, CEO of the enterprise, expects to have 50 to 100 corporate-owned stores up and running by next year and, eventually, an additional 100 to 200 franchised locations.. . . more

Under Armour Moves to Control Own Future by Opening 200 New Stores in 2016

With one of its biggest partners shrinking the number of stores it operates, Under Armour is making an aggressive bid this year to control its own future.

The Baltimore, Maryland- based athletic wear brand will open a whopping 200 stores in 2016, said Under Armour founder and CEO Kevin Plank in a keynote speech at the annual National Retail Federation conference last week. Plank did not disclose what mix of formats those new 200 stores would comprise, and a spokeswoman for the company did not return a request for comment.. . . more

Private Equity Real Estate Funds: Top Trends to Watch in 2016

4-money-hundreds-bundles.jpgThere were eight or nine transactions that occurred in 2015 that involved some type of public vehicle being taken private by real estate private equity. Ernst & Young expects 2016 to be as big or bigger in terms of such deals. That activity is being fueled by a number of factors, including real estate funds that have plenty of “dry powder” to finance these deals and attractive pricing within the REIT sector. In 2015, five funds raised 35 percent of the total capital raised throughout the year. These mega-funds will look for scale in their investment targets, and certain REITs in targeted sectors with a discount to NAV will be prime targets.. . . more

Staples cutting hundreds of jobs as part of ‘streamlining’

After two years of store closures, layoffs hit Staples headquarters.

Staples Inc. on Monday laid off hundreds of corporate employees, according to multiple sources familiar with the situation.. . . more

Warm weather costly for Tractor Supply; growth plans intact

The nation’s largest rural lifestyle retailer had previously warned that warm weather caused weaker-than-expected fourth quarter sales and it quantified the impact on profitability with the release of full financial results on Jan. 27.

The company -- which opened 114 stores last year to end with 1,488 stores -- announced on Jan. 12 that sales increased 3.9% to $1.65 billion while same-store sales declined 1.4%, for the fourth quarter ended Dec. 26, 2015. Net income during the period decreased 0.3% to $111.7 million from $112.1 million, while earnings per share increased 1.2% to 82 cents, from 81 cents.. . . more

American Apparel’s fix-it plan

American Apparel executives and board members regained a measure of control this week: A bankruptcy court judge approved their plan to move forward with a reorganization strategy that transfers ownership of the company from shareholders to lenders, and in doing so, strips founder Dov Charney of any stake of the company.

Charney has been aggressively fighting to return to American Apparel since he was ousted as its chief executive amid allegations of sexual misconduct and misuse of company money, and the court’s move deals a serious and perhaps final blow to his efforts. Plus, it restructures a crushing debt burden that was making it hard for the clothing chain to do business.. . . more

TD Garden growth underway

Delaware North and Boston Properties yesterday marked the groundbreaking for The Hub on Causeway, its newly named, 
1.5 million-square-foot-plus development on the old Boston Garden site that is set to transform the North Station area.

The Hub’s largest supermarket, a 60,000-square-foot Star Market, will be built in the first phase of the project that will include some 210,000 square feet of retail and restaurant space in total. Los Angeles’ ArcLight Cinema will open ArcLight Boston, a 60,000-square-foot movie theater complex with 15 screens.. . . more

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

What to Expect From CVS Health Corporation in 2016

It's safe to say CVS Health had a pretty darn good 2015 overall thanks to growth in its retail store footprint and the continued success of its pharmacy benefit manager business. Analysts are currently projecting that the company's 2015 sales will wind up showing 9.8% growth over 2014 results, with earnings per share growing at an even faster rate of 17%. Better yet, the odds look good that CVS Health will continue to grow over the coming year as its strategic moves begin to pay off.

CVS recently held an analyst day to share key trends and financial projections for 2016.. . . more

Lidl details site plans for U.S. expansion

As part of an effort to acquire sites for its U.S. store expansion, Lidl has launched a new website detailing its preferred site criteria, and guidelines for potential suppliers.

The site confirms that the retailer is seeking to build stand-alone stores of 36,000 square feet in dense population markets in eight East Coast states between New Jersey and Georgia.. . . more

Consumer confidence rises despite market turmoil

AP CONSUMER PRICES F A USA NYConsumer confidence unexpectedly rose this month as falling gasoline prices and strong job growth more than offset a bruising stock sell-off.

A closely watched index of Americans' perceptions of the economy and labor market increased to 98.1 in January from 96.3 the previous month, the Conference Board said Tuesday. Economists expected a reading of 96.5.. . . more

Home Prices in 20 U.S. Cities Climb by Most Since July 2014

Home prices in 20 U.S. cities rose at a faster pace in the year ended November, underscoring the shortage of supply amid steady demand.

The S&P/Case-Shiller index of property values in 20 cities increased 5.8 percent from a year earlier, the biggest advance since July 2014, a report from the group showed Tuesday in New York. The median projection of 31 economists surveyed by Bloomberg called for a 5.7 percent gain. Nationally, prices rose 5.3 percent year-over-year.. . . more

Dov Charney’s bid to buy American Apparel nixed by judge

A Delaware bankruptcy judge on Monday approved a reorganization plan for American Apparel that shuts out Dov Charney, the company’s founder — setting aside a last ditch effort by the controversial businessman to return to the helm of the company he founded 26 years ago.

Judge Brendan Shannon approved the $200 plan of reorganization backed by the company that will take the Los Angeles company private, cut its debt by $230 million, provide $80 million in liquidity and give control to its bondholders.. . . more

Starbucks shuttering ‘tea bar’ format

Starbucks Corp. is still hot for tea, but it’s not feeling too warm and cozy about its Teavana "tea bar" format, which debuted in New York City about two years ago. The concept sought to elevate the tea-drinking experience, much the way Starbucks did for coffee, and featured an array of tea-related beverages and food items in a comfortable environment that encouraged people to linger.

The coffee giant plans to convert three of the five existing Teavana tea bar locations into Starbucks stores, and shutter the location in Beverly Hills. It will keep the fifth location, in Seattle, open as a space where it can test new ideas related to tea.  The retailer also will keep open Teavana’s 350 shops, which primarily sell packaged teas and related appliances.. . . more

Monday, January 25, 2016

JCPenney has a new plan that could kill Sears

sears workerJCPenney is getting back into the appliance business — and that's terrible news for Sears.

CEO Marvin Ellison, who joined the company from The Home Depot, is leading an effort for the retailer to start selling washers and stoves for the first time in 30 years, Suzanne Kapner at The Wall Street Journal reports.. . . more

Department store anchors at malls face a new demographic of shoppers

Interior corridor on the east side of the Mall of America in Bloomington, Mn. on Thursday, August 14, 2014.  (Pioneer Press: Scott Takushi)The American middle class is disappearing, and with it, the mall anchor store.

The middle-of-the-road shopper, neither low-end nor high-end, who in recent years has become elusive for shopping malls -- is the reason Macy's, Sears, and J.C. Penney are shutting stores.

-- The number of households living below the poverty level has doubled since 2008, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Stamp Program. With that, disposable income has decreased.
. . . more

Aldi Is Fixing Its Biggest Weakness and That Should Terrify Whole Foods

Aldi is expanding organic-food brands, removing some artificial ingredients from its products, and adding more gluten-free items in hopes of attracting more health-conscious shoppers.

Aldi became one of the world’s biggest food retailers by offering insanely low prices.

The chain’s prices on fresh produce and packaged goods are roughly 30% lower than Walmart’s, according to a recent price check.. . . more

How Starbucks rang up gangbusters holiday sales when others struggled

Retailer after retailer has announced in recent weeks that they saw tepid or downright disappointing sales during the crucial holiday season.

And then came Starbucks, dropping a blockbuster earnings report on Thursday that stands out as a clear bright spot in retail. The coffee giant announced that revenue soared 12 percent to a record $5.4 billion. Sales at its U.S. restaurants open more than a year were up 9 percent, and nearly half of that growth came from a surge in foot traffic.. . . more

Breakfast bump: McDonald's US sales jump 5.7 percent

Breakfast around the clock is helping shake McDonald's out of its slump.

The world's biggest hamburger chain says the launch of an all-day breakfast menu and unseasonably warm weather helped lift sales by 5.7 percent in the U.S. for the final three months of the year.. . . more

RadioShack looking for a new CEO—again

RadioShack has lost its CEO after he served only nine months on the job.

Ron Garriques has stepped down as chief executive of the consumer electronics chain in order “to pursue other interest in a role that will put him back closer to his family,” the retailer said in a statement to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. The company's CFO, Gordon Briscoe, will serve as interim CEO until a replacement is found.. . . more

Retailers upbeat about 2016; investing in tech-driven marketing

Retailers are generally optimistic about 2016, with such factors as low gas pricing and the housing market uptick working in the industry’s favor.

That’s according to a survey of store managers by real estate services firm Levin Management, which has 95 properties in New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia and North Carolina. Several industry sources have also expressed a positive outlook, including Kiplinger, which anticipates retail will grow approximately 4% this year, and  Trading Economics which expects 3.6% growth.. . . more

Friday, January 22, 2016

Supermarket chain names CEO

Image result for market 32The Golub Corp., operators of the Price Chopper grocery store chain, named Scott Grimmett as president and CEO.  Grimmett, who has been part of the family-owned company’s succession plan since joining Golub in January 2012 as executive VP and COO, is the first non-family member to head up the chain. He replaces Jerry Golub, who has been appointed vice chairman of the board

Grimmett is credited with helping to spearhead the company's transition from its Price Chopper brand to its updated Market 32 format, which has become the basis for the chain’s next generation of stores.. . . more

Amazon’s Clothing Selection Is Now Bigger Than 250 Walmart Supercenters Combined

When you think about shopping on Amazon, you probably don’t think about clothing. Amazon is trying to change that.

The number of items listed on Amazon in apparel and accessories categories has soared 91 percent over the last year to 30 million items as of the 2015 holiday season, according to analysts at the investment bank R.W. Baird. That’s the equivalent of the total number of items — not just clothing — sold in around 250 Walmart supercenters combined. It’s also a bigger selection than Amazon’s electronics catalogue.

Here’s what that growth looks like over the past two years:
. . . more

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Sports Authority tries to keep a bankruptcy filing at bay

Sports Authority Inc., which once dreamed of becoming the biggest U.S. sporting-goods retailer, is now working to stave off bankruptcy after failing to capitalize on a fitness boom that’s benefiting e-commerce and upstart competitors.

The company is struggling to persuade creditors to reduce its outstanding debt as it tries to avoid filing for Chapter 11 reorganization, according to people with knowledge of the matter. . . . more

A Forward Look at Retail Construction

Leading up to the economic downturn in 2008, retail was the only property type to experience a significant inventory increase. Between 2000 and 2008, total retail stock increased by 14.2 percent, more than double the inventory increase observed in the apartment and office sectors. Almost eight years later, we are left with a sector that has been overbuilt and under-demolished. Speculative construction has not returned to the market, very few new centers are being built and even expansions of existing centers remain relatively rare.. . . more

Here's where Walmart is expanding its store base

On the heels of announcing it would close more than 150 stores in the United States, Walmart says it will open 15 supercenters this month in Canada.

These grand openings bring Walmart Canada's total store count to 400 stores, including 312 supercenters and 88 discount stores. The company says its 15 supercenter projects represent an investment of more than $100 million and have generated approximately 700 new store jobs and 1,450 construction and trade jobs in that nation.. . . more

Ahold USA 2015 sales up 1.4%

Ahold USA on Wednesday announced net sales of $26.4 billion for the full year of 2015, an increase of 1.4%.
Ahold USA successfully converted the 25 acquired former A&P stores during the quarter. Identical sales excluding gas were up 1.6%, positively affected by competitor store closures in the New York Metro market.. . . more

Starbucks Q1 profit tops; on track for 1,800 new stores in 2016

Starbucks Corp. reported first quarter earnings and same-store sales that topped expectations. But the coffee giant gave a soft earnings outlook for its current quarter.

The chain's comparable store sales rose 8% for the quarter, beating estimates of 6.9%. Same-store sales in Starbucks’ Americas division increased 9%, also better than expected

The retailer reiterated its plans to open approximately 1,800 net new store openings in its current fiscal year, with the Americas division accounting for roughly 700 (half licensed), and China/Asia Pacific accounting for approximately 900 (two-thirds licensed).. . . more

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Brookfield makes $657 million play for Rouse Properties

Toronto-based Brookfield Asset Management Inc. has made an unsolicited bid to buy REIT Rouse Properties Inc. for about $657 million.

The proposed price represents a premium of 26 percent to the closing price of Rouse shares on January 15, 2016, and a 19 percent premium to the 30-day volume-weighted average trading price of Rouse shares. . . . more Hopes to Grab Bigger Share of Investment Sales Market by Expanding Beyond Distress recently announced some big changes ahead for the company, including a name change to Ten-X and major expansion of its online property sales transaction platform. NREI talked with Ten-X Executive Vice President Rick Sharga to find out more about how the online investment sales industry is evolving and what lies ahead for the company.. . . more

Mid-Market Investment Funds Focus on Tertiary Markets to Remain Competitive

Fund managers who got the axe from institutional investors, or mega-funds, amidst sweeping personnel cutbacks in 2015 are wasting no time in finding treasure elsewhere, especially if they are talented real estate investors.

Mid-market private equity real estate funds have positioned themselves to have a favorable run in 2016, as they carve out investment niches in second-tier and tertiary real estate markets, say industry professionals.. . . more

Chico’s sells Boston Proper

Chico’s FAS has sold its Boston Proper women’s apparel business to a Los Angeles-based, consumer-focused private equity firm.

Brentwood Associates, whose portfolio includes J. McLaughlin and Soft Surroundings, announced Tuesday it has acquired the women’s apparel brand. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed.. . . more

US housing starts slip in December, but annual gains solid

US builders started fewer homes in December, but prior gains meant that residential construction ended 2015 at its healthiest level in eight years.Housing starts dipped 2.5 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.15 million homes, the Commerce Department said Wednesday.

This marks some giveback after starts climbed 10.1 percent in November, in addition to the drag caused by flooding across parts of the South and Midwest that likely slowed . . . more

Smaller RadioShack aims to re-energize sales under new owner

Standard General, a once-obscure investment fund that has gambled on long shots like RadioShack and American Apparel, bought the Radio Shack stores out of bankruptcy last spring and then secured the chain’s name from another creditor. Its South Korean-born, Queens-raised co-founder, Soohyung Kim, divined value in the 94-year-old brand, although some retail analysts in recent years had called it a burdensome anachronism in the digital age. (It does sell several radios at the La Gran Plaza store.)

So how will RadioShack succeed?. . . more

Staples, Office Depot plan to extend deadline for deal

Staples and Office Depot are planning to extend the deadline to get their business combination done.

The office supply companies said Wednesday that the extension allows for the completion of ongoing federal district court litigation with the Federal Trade Commission.

Staples Inc. and Office Depot Inc. have agreed to extend the deadline for their deal from Feb. 4 to May 16. The companies are working to extend financing terms for the transaction.. . . more

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Tiffany Holiday-period Sales Decline On Weak Tourist Spending, Strong Dollar

Tiffany & Co. reported Tuesday global holiday-period sales fell 6% from a year ago to $961 million, hurt by weak tourist spending in a number of markets and a strong U.S. dollar. On a constant-currency basis, sales for the two-month period ending Dec. 31 fell 3%. Same-store sales, on a constant-currency basis, fell 8% in the Americas, 9% in the Asia-Pacific region and 2% in Europe, while increasing 10% in Japan. . . . more

J.C. Penney CEO brings in his own head of stores

Joe McFarland has been hired to be executive vice president over all of J.C. Penney’s 1,000 stores, the Plano-based retailer said Monday.

McFarland’s appointment is effective immediately, the company said in a release. He succeeds Tony Bartlett, who had been with Penney since 2006, the last three years over stores.

The addition of McFarland means CEO Marvin Ellison is still putting his team together.. . . more

Data-Backed Decisions Define Retail’s Future

Image result for omnichannel retailWhile retailers grapple with offering multichannel shopping experiences, the industry’s next big hurdle emerges: data deluge.

Billions of connected devices and sensors coming online in stores — with customers and in products — create new challenges and opportunities for retailers.. . . more

With smaller stores, Target finds success where Walmart failed

A Walmart store is seen on Jan. 16, 2016, in Chinatown, Los Angeles, one of seven Walmart stores in Southern California and 269 stores across the globe that will close down due to company restructuring.  Photo: Mark Ralston, AFP / Getty ImagesAs the country’s top two discount retailers, it’s only natural to assume Walmart and Target compete fiercely with each other. But by virtue of brand identity alone, the companies’ rivalry is superficial at best.

Those differences were best on display last week when Walmart said it will close 154 U.S. stores, including all of its smaller format Walmart Express stores. Meanwhile, Target CEO Brian Cornell wants to build smaller versions of Target big boxes; more than half of the 15 stores the retailer opened last year were CityTargets and TargetExpress (though the company now calls all of its stores just Target).. . . more

Friday, January 15, 2016

Walmart to shutter two Sam's Club stores in Mass., cutting nearly 300 jobs

A worker moves a stray shopping cart outside a Walmart location in Louisville, Kentucky on Friday, May 15, 2015.Wal-Mart Stores Inc.'s plans to shutter 154 stores in the U.S., shedding 10,000 workers domestically, will hit Massachusetts.

The Arkansas-based retail giant has 64 of its Walmart stores in the Bay State, but all are unaffected by the announcement, according to a spokesman for the retailer. But locations of the company's members-only Sam's Club in Fall River and Seekonk will close on Jan. 28 — two of the four across the country that will shut down. Another Sam's Club in Warwick, Rhode Island will also shut its doors.. . . more

Holiday retail sales rose 3% as weather weighed

Image result for HOLIDAY SALESRetail sales for the holiday period increased 3%, less than the 3.7% the National Retail Federation had predicted, according to the trade group.

The growth is the slowest since 2013, when sales in the year-end period rose 2.7%. It is also far short of last year's results, when sales rose 4.1%.

The NRF said e-commerce sales increased 9% to $105 billion, more than the 6% to 8% growth it had predicted.. . . more

Restaurant same-store sales growth slows at year’s end

Image result for restaurantThe good news is that 2015 was a much better year than 2014 for the restaurant industry; the bad news is that same-store sales growth continued to decelerate during the fourth quarter.

Same-store sales in 2015 rose 1.6 percent, a 1-percent jump from the growth rate reported in 2014, and a 2.3-percent improvement compared with 2013 results, according to data reported by TDn2K’s Black Box Intelligence through The Restaurant Industry Snapshot, based on weekly sales from over 23,000 restaurant units and more than 120 brands, representing $57 billion dollars in annual revenue.. . . more

Chipotle to close all restaurants — for a few hours — in February

Customers enter a Chipotle Mexican Grill in Martinez, California, U.S., on Monday, Feb. 2, 2015. Chipotle Mexican Grill has been suspected of an E. Coli outbreak in several states.Chipotle Mexican Grill has announced that it will close all of its stores for several hours on Feb. 8 to train its staff in food safety.

According to a Chipotle spokesman, who spoke with The Oregonian, the company plans to discuss changes to enhance food safety and talk about the restaurant’s role in food safety.. . . more

Amazon poised to take on UPS, FedEx in delivery business

Employees work inside Amazon’s 300,000-square-foot sorting center in Kent. (Erika Schultz / The Seattle Times)Within a few weeks, will begin competing directly with longtime partners United Parcel Service, FedEx and DHL.

But not in the United States. At least, not yet.

Sometime in the first quarter, Amazon is expected to acquire the 75 percent of the French package-delivery company Colis PrivĂ© that it doesn’t already own. Though the French company is small relative to the multinational giants that move Amazon parcels around the globe, the acquisition will be the biggest step yet that the online retail giant has taken to move into the business of delivering packages for others, as well as itself.. . . more

Can Macy’s Find a Way to Unlock the Value of its Real Estate?

The most wonderful time of the year wasn’t all that wonderful for Macy’s Inc. The department store chain saw its same-store sales fall 4.7 percent in November and December.

Shortly after announcing its disappointing holiday results, Macy’s issued an announcement outlining its strategic plans to cut costs and possibly monetize its real estate. The retailer operates about 900 stores in 45 states, the District of Columbia, Guam and Puerto Rico.. . . more

Commercial Real Estate in 2016: Six Trends

abandoned-mall.jpgThe U.S. property market landscape in 2016 will appear similar to that of 2015, with a number of interwoven aspects that bode well for savvy investors who can step out in front of ongoing, and in some cases intensifying, economic, demographic and technological trends.

On the economic side, the Federal Reserve made it clear in December that the central bank sees U.S. growth as relatively stable, when the federal funds rate was notched higher by a quarter point. Nevertheless, underlying inflation is extremely tame (with worries of deflation in some sectors and economies) in the U.S. and major emerging markets, providing no impetus for significantly higher rates. That may put some pressure on other global economies, including the Eurozone and China, but will also make U.S. assets more attractive in the coming year.. . . more

Wal-Mart to close 269 stores as it retools fleet

Image result for walmart express store Wal-Mart said Friday it will close 269 stores across the globe, including 154 in the U.S. The world's largest retailer also will open as many as 405 stores globally in the coming fiscal year, as it shifts its focus toward Supercenters and Neighborhood Markets in profitable locations.

The domestic store closures will mostly impact the company's Walmart Express stores, which account for 102 of the closings. These small stores, which are comparable in size to a dollar store, had been in pilot since 2011. They were rebranded as Neighborhood Market in 2014.. . . more