REAL ESTATE

CBL plans redevelopment of J.C. Penney locations

BY Michael Fickes

Chattanooga, Tenn. — CBL & Associates Properties has announced future redevelopment and replacement plans for J.C. Penney anchor locations in the CBL portfolio that are expected to close this year.

J.C. Penney intends to close four locations in the CBL portfolio. They include stores at Hickory Point Mall in Forsyth, Ill., Janesville Mall in Janesville, Wis., Wausau Center in Wausau, Wis., and Northgate Mall in Chattanooga, Tenn. CBL anticipates the closures to occur in the second quarter of this year.

Three of the locations are leased from CBL. The Northgate Mall store is leased from a third part, and CBL plans to work with the building owner to facilitate redevelopment. The stores encompass about 499,000 sq. ft. and remit $1.4 million in gross annual rent. J.C. Penney will continue to pay rent until the leases expire.

CBL analyzed co-tenancy provisions in other leases at these properties and determined that the financial exposure would be immaterial.

Over the past three years, CBL has added or redeveloped more than 75 anchor and junior anchor locations spanning 2.2 million sq. ft. Today, other than locations under redevelopment, CBL has no vacant anchor locations in its core portfolio.

Based on CBL’s record of successful anchor redevelopment, similar projects have generally required 12-24 months to complete and an investment of $5-10 million generating initial unleveraged returns in the range of 7-10%. More specific cost and return information regarding the four locations will be announced as plans are finalized.

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OPERATIONS

NRLB files complaint against Wal-Mart

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — The U.S. National Labor Relations Board has filed a formal complaint charging that Wal-Mart Stores violated labor laws in 14 states by taking action against striking and protesting workers.

The NLRB said the retailer illegally fired, disciplined or threatened more than 60 employees in 14 states for participating in legally protected activities to complain about wages and working conditions.

A complaint issued by the NLRB’s general counsel’s office said Wal-Mart representatives appeared on national news broadcasts and threatened to retaliate against workers if they went on strike. It also alleged they disciplined and fired workers for engaging in legally protected protest activity.

The complaint involves more than 60 employees, 19 of whom were allegedly fire as a result of their participation in the protests. Sixty-three Wal-Mart supervisors and one corporate officer are named in the board’s complaint.

"We believe that our actions were valid. We take our obligations very seriously. We look forward to sharing our side of the facts in these cases with a judge," said Brooke Buchanan, a spokeswoman for chain in an Associated Press report.

Wal-Mart has until Jan. 28 to respond to the complaint. The case will then go before an administrative law judge. If Wal-Mart is found liable, it could be required to award workers back pay, reinstatement and reverse any disciplinary action. The retailer could also try to work out a settlement as the case goes forward.

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OPERATIONS

Sears Canada taps IBM for outsourcing; will lay off 1,345 associates

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Sears Canada Inc. has entered into an arrangement with IBM to have the supplier take over the work currently performed at three internal Sears customer contact centers. The outsourcing move will take place over the next nine months and affect 1,345 employees.

"The changes we are making to our Customer Contact Centres will allow us to streamline the support structure of our organization while enhancing the overall customer experience," said Doug Campbell, president and CEO, Sears Canada Inc. "Our partner will bring tools and technologies that will allow us to operate more effectively without the ongoing investment in and maintenance of legacy proprietary systems. This will provide our customers with the benefits of up-to-date technology and enable us to focus on our core retail business, the area where we believe we have the greatest opportunity to maximize the value of the company."

Additionally, 283 employees at Sears Canada’s logistics arm will be laid off effective immediately, the company said.

Sears Canada is 51%-owned by Sears Holdings Corp. "These types of decisions are not made without considerable thought and deliberation," said Campbell. "We are planning for the future of Sears Canada and taking steps now that will allow us to continue serving customers as a viable national retailer coast to coast in stores and through our Direct channel now and in the future."

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