OPERATIONS

Bon-Ton Stores CEO to step down in 2015

BY Marianne Wilson

York, Pa. — Bon -Ton Stores said its CEO, Brendan Hoffman, will step down early next year. The announcement follows a disappointing fourth quarter for the company.

Hoffman, a former CEO of Lord & Taylor, will leave Bon-Ton on Feb. 7, 2015, when his contract expires. He also will step down as director. Hoffman cited "strictly personal reasons" for his decision to leave.

He was appointed CEO of Bon-Ton in February 2012.

For the fourth quarter Bon-Ton profits declined to $61.3 million from $74 .4 million. The company operates 270 department stores under several banners.

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FINANCE

Ashley Stewart files bankruptcy; to close 27 stores

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Plus-sized retailer Ashley Stewart has filed for voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. As part of its restructuring plan, the company announced it will immediately close 27 underperforming locations. Ashley Stewart currently operates some 168 stores. The company previously filed Chapter 11 in 2010.

In a separate statement, the company said potential buyers have expressed interest in buying the chain.

"We are encouraged to see that several entities from both the financial and apparel industries have expressed interest in Ashley Stewart," said Michael Abate, senior VP of finance. "The plus-sized market is poised for increased growth and the Ashley Stewart shopper is in the prized 25-55 age demographic, when women are at the height of their earning power."

According to the company’s statement, Ashley Stewart has a decline in sales and profitability in 2013 due to a number of factors that have been corrected.

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FINANCE

American Eagle Q4 falls 89% on lower sales, charges

BY Marianne Wilson

Pittsburgh — American Eagle Outfitters Inc.’s fourth-quarter profit plunged 89% on lower sales and one-time charges related to employee severance costs, the discontinuation of a product line and other items. The company also forecast first-quarter results that were below analysts’ estimates.

The teen apparel retailer posted net income of $10.5 million for the quarter ended Feb.1, down from $94.8 million in the year-ago period.

Sales were $1 billion in the quarter, down from $1.1 billion last year. Same-store sales fell 7%.

For the full year, American Eagle’s net income declined to $83 million from $232.1 million. Annual revenue fell 5% to $3.31 billion, from $3.48 billion.

"The company’s results in 2013 were highly disappointing," said interim CEO Jay Schottenstein. "While tough macro conditions have persisted in our retail sector, our merchandise and overall customer experience fell short of expectations. We’re taking steps to bring greater focus and excitement to our product offering and better engage our core customers."

In January, American Eagle CEO Robert Hanson left the company, on the heels of a disappointing holiday season. Schottenstein assumed the post on an interim basis.

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