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BY CSA STAFF

Walmart.com Offers Store Pickup

Wal-Mart Stores is offering free shipping on thousands of items purchased on its Web site for pickup at more than 750 of its U.S. stores. The program, which will be rolled out nationwide to more than 3,300 stores by late summer, promises to bring additional sales to the retailer’s stores.

Items purchased at Walmart.com arrive in Wal-Mart stores seven to 10 business days after an order is processed. Customers receive automated e-mails when their orders are ready for pickup.

The program is in response to Wal-Mart’s efforts to boost sales after posting slumping comp-store sales. It will also help the chain integrate its Web site more closely with its store base.

Finally, the program will help the chain sell more items to its current Wal-Mart shoppers. Based on the program’s trial, which started in the Dallas/Fort Worth market in 2004, nearly half of the participating customers spent an additional $60 in-store when they went to pick up their orders, according to the Associated Press.

BabyUniverse, eToys to Merge

BabyUniverse, an online retailer of baby, toddler and maternity products, will merge with Denver-based eToys Direct Inc., an e-commerce and direct marketer of toys. BabyUniverse, Jupiter, Fla., said its shareholders will become minority stockholders in the combined company.

After the deal, BabyUniverse shareholders will own one-third of the shares of the combined company, and eToys Direct shareholders will own two-thirds.

John Textor, chairman and CEO, said he believed the deal will help earnings. He will become chairman of the new company, while Michael Wagner, eToys CEO, will serve as CEO.

In 2006, BabyUniverse said it would explore strategic options to enhance shareholder value, including a sale of the company.

BabyUniverse went public in 2005.

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FINANCE

Finish Line 4Q Profit Narrows

BY CSA STAFF

Indianapolis, Finish Line said Thursday the company earned $21.1 million in its fourth quarter, compared with profit of $28.1 million during the same period a year prior. Revenue rose to $429 million from $399.2 million.

Expenses for the quarter rose to $93.9 million from $85.1 million. The company also saw an asset impairment charge of $7.5 million compared with $2.5 million a year ago. Comp-store sales fell 5.4% during the quarter.

For the full year, the company earned $32.4 million.

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MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

Sharper Image, OfficeMax Partner

BY CSA STAFF

San Francisco, Sharper Image has announced a multi-year licensing agreement with OfficeMax. The agreement with OfficeMax is the first to be announced by Sharper Image’s newly created brand licensing division.

Under the agreement, OfficeMax will offer Sharper Image branded office furniture and accessories made exclusively for OfficeMax under the Sharper Image Office brand. Products will include desks, chairs, shredders, desk sets, accessories and related items. The first product collection is currently rolling out into OfficeMax stores, with additional collections to debut throughout and beyond 2007.

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