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Charming Shoppes to Cut 225 Jobs

BY CSA STAFF

Bensalem, Pa. Charming Shoppes Inc., which operates Lane Bryant and Fashion Bug stores, said Thursday that it plans to cut 225 positions, including some that are currently open, as part of the apparel retailer’s ongoing plan to restructure its business.

As a result, Charming Shoppes expects to book about $2 million in costs during the fourth fiscal quarter ending Jan. 31. The company expects the action to result in pretax annualized cost savings of about $12 million for the next fiscal year ending Jan. 30, 2010.

In November, Charming Shoppes announced that it would discontinue the Lane Bryant Woman catalog and close up to 100 stores in fiscal 2010, in addition to the 150 stores the company said it would close during the current fiscal year.

The company expects its plan to reduce costs by about $100 million to $125 million over the next two fiscal years, with about $75 million to be booked in fiscal year 2010.

“It has been our strategy to return the company’s focus and energies to our core brands — Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug and Catherines,” said chairman and interim chief executive Alan Rosskamm in a statement.

Rosskamm said the company expects to end the fiscal year with cash balances in the range of $80 million to $85 million. He noted that there are no outstanding borrowings on the company’s committed $375 million revolving credit facility.

Also Thursday, Charming Shoppes reported that same-store sales dropped 14% during the nine-week holiday period ended Jan. 3.

Net sales from continuing operations for the nine weeks ended Jan. 3 also dropped 14%, to $506.3 million from $586.1 million in the prior-year period.

Rosskamm said the fourth-quarter sales performance to date has been “slightly below our plan for the period.” He said the company has remained focused on limiting price discounting, which improved merchandise margins at its three core brands during the period.

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Walmart offers $9 smoking cessation kits

BY CSA STAFF

Walmart announced this week that as part of its Operation Main Street initiative, it will offer a smoking cessation prescription starter pack for $9. According to Walmart the $9 starter pack of bupropion ER 150mg is the lowest priced on the market and the generic equivalent of Zyban. The starter pack is available at Walmart, Neighborhood Market and Sam’s Club pharmacies in a 17-tablet, 10-day supply.

“Times are tight right now, and Walmart is committed to helping our customers maintain their healthy lifestyles in both good economic times and bad,” said Dr. John Agwunobi, Walmart SVP and president of health and wellness. “With our affordable smoking cessation offerings, we’re hopeful that smokers who are committed to quitting will be able to get the tools they need to stop smoking and still be able to afford everyday household items so they can live better.”

The health community applauded Walmart for its efforts in helping smokers find affordable ways to quit.

“The public health community has long recognized that the cost of either cigarettes or smoking cessation medications has served as a determining factor for smokers to continue smoking or finally to decide to quit,” said Cheryl Healton, Dr. P.H., president and CEO of the American Legacy Foundation. “This move by Walmart to provide science-based smoking cessation therapies that smokers can more easily afford is a huge step forward in helping millions of smokers finally quit for good. We applaud Walmart and hope other retailers will follow their example. It can only result in longer, healthier lives.”

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Steinhafel named chairman of Target

BY CSA STAFF

MINNEAPOLIS Target president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel, will assume the additional role of chairman of the board, effective Feb. 1. Steinhafel succeeds Bob Ulrich, who will retire from the board, as previously announced, at the end of the 2008 fiscal year. The board also announced that Ulrich will be designated chairman emeritus in recognition of his many significant contributions.

Steinhafel joined Target in 1979 and served in a variety of merchandising positions until being named EVP of merchandising in 1994. He was promoted to president of Target in 1999 and became a member of the board of directors in 2007. Steinhafel succeeded Ulrich as CEO of Target in May 2008.

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