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Ascena Retail Q4 profit falls, but beats Street

BY Marianne Wilson

Suffern, N.Y. — Ascena Retail’s net income plunged 94% in its fiscal fourth quarter, dragged down by costs related to its acquisition of Charming Shoppes Inc. Its adjusted earnings topped Wall Street’s view.

Ascena, owners of the Dressbarn, Maurices and Justice, announced in May that it was buying Charming Shoppes, whose divisions include Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug and Catherines Plus for approximately $890 million. Ascena is in the process of closing Fashion Bug’s stores.

Ascena reported that it earned $1.6 million for the period ended July 28, down from $28.2 million a year earlier.

Net sales 29% to $939.7 million from $725.8 million, driven by online sales and sales from new stores, easily beating Wall Street projections of $781.7 million.

Same-store sales rose 3%, not including online sales, which increased 49% to $39 million, excluding Charming’s results.

By brand, sales were strongest at Justice, where revenue at stores open at least a year climbed 5%.

The company plans to open approximately 180 to 200 stores and close 100 to 120 stores, ending the fiscal year with about 3,900 Justice, Lane Bryant, Maurices, Dressbarn and Catherines stores.

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Diageo recognized as sustainability leader

BY CSA STAFF

Premium adult beverage maker Diageo received the Carbon Disclosure Project’s top distinction for its efforts in the area of climate change strategy, emissions disclosure and performance.

The Norwalk, Conn.-based maker of Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, Crown Royal, Ketel One, Guinness, Jose Cuervo, Captain Morgan and Beaulieu Vineyard wines, said the recognition from the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP), recognizes the company’s strong global commitment to sustainability. That commitment was demonstrated most recently by a switch to all biomethane at its Gimli, Manitoba plant and award-winning sustainable design, construction and operation of its New York City offices.

CDP is an international organization that provides the only global system for companies and cities to measure and manage environmental information.

Diageo was also awarded membership on the CDP’s Carbon Performance Leadership Index. Companies included in the index are viewed as having best practice in terms of governance, strategy and emissions reductions and strongly out-performing the rest of the CDP Global 500 population in all of the key metrics. Diageo was also awarded a place on the Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index, making it the only beverage company to be listed on both.

The Carbon Disclosure Leadership index highlights the constituent companies within the FTSE Global Equity Index Series (Global 500) which have displayed the strongest approach to climate change disclosure. Achieving a high score indicates good internal data management and understanding of climate change related issues affecting the company.

"Diageo is committed to building a sustainable business and we take our responsibility to the environment very seriously," said Guy Smith, EVP at Diageo. "We are proud to have our efforts recognized by the CDP. This will serve to further reinforce our commitment to driving strong performance in all areas of sustainability, which is a key driver of our North American business."

CDP CEO Paul Simpson said, "companies that make the Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index have demonstrated strong internal data management practices for the measurement of greenhouse gas emissions and energy use. They are also giving clear consideration to the business issues related to climate change and their exposure to climate-related risks and opportunities. This is vital to realizing greater efficiencies, protecting the business from risk and capitalizing on opportunities."

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Walmart offers fresh food loyalty program

BY CSA STAFF

Walmart and HumanaVitality have developed a unique way to incent people to eat healthier while promoting increased customer traffic at Walmart stores.

The companies on Wednesday morning launched a first-of-its-kind program called Vitality HealthyFood whereby Walmart offers a 5% discount on produce items to HumanaVitality members. The discount is loaded on a card in the form of a credit within five business days that can be redeemed on a subsequent trip to Walmart.

The program is set to begin Oct. 15 when the 5% discount becomes available on produce items bearing the recently developed "Great for You" icon, which, as the name implies, was created to designate foods that are part of a healthy diet. In the coming months, Walmart expects to apply the icon to select private label products under the Great Value and Marketside brands that meet the Great for You criteria. The program is likely to be expanded to branded food items in 2013.

The effort is the first national program where a major retailer and healthcare company have come together to incentivize people to eat better through savings on healthier foods, according to Walmart.

"Price is an important factor in incentivizing wellness in America. By offering affordable, healthier foods, we will help make our customers healthier and reduce costs to our healthcare system as a whole," said John Agwunobi, M.D., president of health and wellness, Walmart U.S. He referred to the initiative as preventative care in its purest form, noting that Walmart wants to be a wellness destination for its customers and the retailer that, "provides them with affordable ways to fight for their health."

The initiative with HumanaVitality, a rewards-based program developed as a joint venture between Humana and Discovery Holdings, is a continuation of an effort Walmart began in 2011. That’s when the retailer unveiled a commitment to make healthier food affordable and accessible at a high profile event involving Walmart U.S. president and CEO Bill Simon and First Lady Michelle Obama. Walmart said by collaborating with HumanaVitality it is directly addressing the issue of making healthier food more affordable food, working to bring down the costs of healthcare in the U.S., and leveraging its size and scale to lead on big social issues that matter to Americans.

HumanaVitality CEO Joe Woods said the program, called Vitality HealthyFood, represents a new way to decrease America’s healthcare bill. A survey of Humana’s membership found that 84% said a savings program would motivate them to purchase healthier foods.

From Humana’s perspective, the program is launching just as open enrollment periods are set to begin for many employers.

"We will be aggressively communicating this program to more than 600,000 hospitals and physicians, as well as 60,000 insurance brokers to ensure as many members as possible can benefit from it," Woods said.

 

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