HOT CONCEPTS

Au Bon Pain, Boston

BY CSA STAFF

Au Bon Pain is updating its brand experience with a new customer-centric design that gives the store a more distinct personality. It also makes the space easier to navigate, with the layout redesigned to speed service.

“We’re taking the customer experience to the next level,” said Sue Morelli, CEO for Au Bon Pain, which operates 318 locations in the United States and internationally. “The response we’ve been getting to our new prototype has validated our decision to accelerate our growth, including going to new markets nationally.”

The new design, by Interbrand Design Forum, Dayton, Ohio, made its debut in a remodeled store in Boston, and will be in place in 26 locations by August. The café-bakery chain has already remodeled a majority of its locations in the greater New York City area, with the redone stores generating “double-digit” sales increases, according to Morelli.

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Kroger off to strong start with positive Q1

BY CSA STAFF

CINCINNATI — Kroger reported solid first-quarter results and marked 30 consecutive quarters in which identical-store sales increased, the supermarket retailer announced Thursday.

Kroger said that identical-store sales rose 4.6%, excluding fuel, to about $20.8 billion. Identical stores are defined as supermarkets open at least five quarters.

The company said its first-quarter revenue for the period ended May 21, including fuel, rose 11% to about $27.5 billion, compared with the year-ago period. Excluding fuel, total sales were 4.8% above last year.

Net earnings for Kroger increased to 70 cents per diluted share, compared with 58 cents per diluted share in first quarter 2010.

Looking ahead, Kroger said that it expects identical supermarket sales growth, excluding fuel, to range from 3.5% to 4.5% for the year. The previous guidance range was 3% to 4%. For the full year, Kroger increased its earnings guidance to $1.85 to $1.95 per diluted share.

"Our Customer 1st strategy is clearly connecting with customers," Kroger chairman and CEO David Dillon said. "We have shown that our focus on people, products, prices and the shopping experience is meaningful to customers through both good and challenging times. As a result, we achieved strong performance across the company.

"Our guidance for the year reflects the balance we strive to achieve across our business — including strong identical sales growth and outstanding cost control, as well as increased earnings and earnings per share," Dillon added. "Our Customer 1st strategy will drive increased sales, cash flow and earnings growth well into the future."

Kroger will hold its annual shareholders meeting on June 23.

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Men’s Wearhouse names new CEO

BY CSA STAFF

HOUSTON — Men’s Wearhouse has named Douglas Ewert president and CEO of the company, succeeding George Zimmer.

As previously announced, Zimmer will continue as executive chairman of the board of directors.

Zimmer stated, "I am excited to turn over the day-to-day reins of Men’s Wearhouse to Doug. I know he has the same passion for this company and its people as I do. With him leading our efforts, we will continue to provide the highest level of service to our customers and our unique culture will thrive."

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