OPERATIONS

Ahold to double Peapod’s U.S. capacity in 2014

BY Michael Johnsen

Zaandam, The Netherlands — Ahold plans to significantly expand its Peapod presence in the U.S. market.

"Peapod is expected to double its capacity in the U.S. in 2014," Dick Boer, Ahold CEO, told analysts during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call.

"We’re planning to open a semi-automated New Jersey warehouse during this summer of 300,000 sq. ft. — clearly focusing on the demands of the New York City market. As many as 21 million people live within New York City’s boundaries, Boer said, "so enormous opportunity for us to move in that market — we’re already there, but to accelerate that growth."

Boer reported that Peapod would also concentrate on expanding its number of pick-up points by 200 by the end of the year.

Furthering its commitment to online strategies, Ahold recently opened a state-of-the-art digital innovation lab in Chicago, Boer said. "[This] allows us to attract top talent to help us shape the future."

Ahold USA on Thursday reported net sales of $6 billion, down 2.1%. Identical sales dropped 2.1% (2% excluding gasoline) reflecting the sales effect of Hurricane Sandy last year and a challenging fourth quarter, the company stated. For the full year, net sales were $26.1 billion, up 1.1%. Identical sales were up 0.2% (0.3% excluding gasoline).

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News

Here we go again?

BY CSA STAFF

Sears Holdings late Friday issued a statement confirming that the company is investigating whether it was the victim of a security breach.

"There have been rumors and reports throughout the retail industry of security incidents at various retailers and we are actively reviewing our systems to determine if we have been a victim of a breach," read the statement. "We have found no information based on our review of our systems to date indicating a breach."

The statement offered no additional details about when it began the investigation. The news comes just a day after the company posted fourth quarter results. Although net and same-store sales dropped in the quarter, the company was able to narrow its loss, as it lowered expenses and reduced inventory. A breach could very well hurt the company’s progress.

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FINANCE

Pier I cites harsh winter as it lowers profit guidance

BY Marianne Wilson

Forth Worth, Texas — Pier I reduced its fourth quarter and fiscal 2014 profit forecasts, blaming the negative impact of severe winter weather. The home furnishings chain is the latest in a series of retailers to credit the extremely cold weather as the main reason for its reduced outlook.

“Since our holiday sales update on January 9th we have continued to experience significant disruption from adverse weather in many of our major markets, said Alex W. Smith, president and CEO. “This has resulted in considerably softer store traffic, as well as some temporary store closings, which further pressured fourth quarter sales and merchandise margin. Our fourth quarter results are frustrating and disappointing.”

Smith said that online sales at Pier 1 outperformed company expectations, accounting for 5% of total sales for the quarter and posting traffic of 1.9 million visitors per week.

Pier 1 now anticipates fourth-quarter revenue is projected in a range of about $512 million to $514 million.

For the full year, Pier 1 forecasts that its revenue will increase about 5.5%. The company previously anticipated revenue would rise by a mid- to high-single digit percentage rate.

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