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Darden Restaurants among top public companies for carbon-disclosure practices

BY CSA STAFF

Orlando, Fla. Darden Restaurants ranks among the top 50 S&P 500 companies recognized by the Carbon Disclosure Project (CDP) for corporate management of its climate-change disclosure practices.

The independent not-for-profit organization featured Darden in its Carbon Disclosure Leadership Index, a key component of the CDP’s annual S&P 500 Report, which was released yesterday. The index is based on high scores that reflect good internal data-management practices and an understanding of climate change-related issues affecting Darden.

Darden was the first full-service restaurant company in the United States to submit data to the Carbon Disclosure Project in 2008. Since then, Darden has communicated its systemized plan to reduce energy consumption throughout its operations, including its restaurants, supply chain and distribution system. The plan includes use of energy-efficient technologies and conservation practices such as implementing an equipment power-up/power-down schedule, installing fluorescent light bulbs in its restaurant kitchens and nearly all of its distribution warehouses, thermostat-setting standards and increasing use of rail shipments.

This year, Darden set a corporate-wide goal to reduce its energy and water use per restaurant by 15% by 2015.

“With the help and leadership of our dedicated employee Green Teams and restaurant managers, we will continue to set priorities and employ key energy-efficiency activities in each of our 1,800 restaurants,” said Ian Olson, director of sustainability for Darden.

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Deloitte expects modest holiday sales growth

BY CSA STAFF

NEW YORK Deloitte said it expects modest increase in 2010 holiday sales, as slow economic growth keeps household spending plans in check.

Deloitte’s retail group expects total holiday sales to reach $852 billion, representing a 2% increase in November through January holiday sales, excluding motor vehicles and gasoline, over last season.  This growth rate represents a slight improvement over last year’s 1% gain. 

 

“Sustained weakness in the housing and employment markets continue to restrict consumer cash flow,” said Carl Steidtmann, Deloitte’s chief economist.

 

Steidtmann added, “Consumers discretionary funds have dwindled as households remain focused on reducing debt and increasing their savings, while banks continue to limit access to credit and stimulus checks have run out.  Should consumers receive good tidings later this season in the way of falling energy prices or additional stock market gains, they may be able to lend retailers a bit more holiday cheer.  However, given the unsteady pace of economic recovery, retailers should expect only a small uptick in holiday sales this year.”

 

Despite its conservative outlook, Deloitte is expecting some positive news this season.

 

“Non-store retailing, particularly e-commerce, is gearing up to be the bright spot in the holiday picture this year,” said Alison Paul, vice chairman and Deloitte’s retail sector leader in the United States, adding that Deloitte forecasts a 15% increase in non-store sales.  Nearly two-thirds of non-store sales are from the online channel, with the remainder coming from catalogs and interactive TV. 

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In retail survey news . . .

BY CSA STAFF

A new study from the professional services firm BDO shows that expectations among chief financial officers at the nation’s largest retailers call for challenging economic conditions to remain in place. One hundred CFOs at retailers with sales ranging from $100 million to $100 billion shared their views with BDO, and 82% said they expected to see a continuation of stagnant economic conditions; 9% said they expected a double dip recession and another 9% were looking for an ongoing turnaround.

Amajority (78%) of retail CFOs cited an ongoing economic turnaround as most dependent upon lower unemployment or consistent improvement in consumer confidence and spending. Don’t really need to be a CFO to know that employment and consumer confidence are key drivers of spending.

“Even with the slight improvements we’ve seen in recent consumer confidence numbers, the weak job market is darkening consumer’s long-term outlook. Retailers simply cannot answer the question ‘What will improve the job market in the United States?'” said Al Ferrara, National Director of BDO’s retail and consumer product practice. “An unemployment rate of 9.6% shows that a pint size recovery persists. In addition, the back-to-school season proved that offering deep discounts and value-oriented items remains critical.” The survey was conducted on behalf of BDO by Market Measurement Inc. whose interviewers spoke directly to CFOs.

 

Financial firm CIT Group is also out with a survey, theirs looks more closely at mid-sized retailers, and respondents are cautiously optimistic about spending during the holiday and the next 12 months. According to CIT, 65% of the retailers and 69% of the suppliers surveyed said they expect spending to return to 2007 levels by the end of 2011.

 

“While the majority of retailers are cautiously optimistic about their future, more than two-thirds expect revenues to grow over the next 12 months,” said Burt Feinberg, managing director and industry group head of retail finance at CIT. “The general consensus is that, having weathered the economic downturn, most retailers are in better shape today than in 2009 and have positioned themselves well to meet future consumer demand when it returns.”

The report is based on the results of two surveys and a series of one-on-one interviews conducted by Forbes Insights in July and August. In the first survey, 111 executives and financial decision makers at middle market retailers were surveyed. All companies had revenues of $25 million to $1 billion. Respondents represented a broad range of retail segments including specialty apparel, consumer electronics, appliances, sporting goods, convenience stores, housewares and discount chains. In the second survey, an additional 150 executives and financial decision makers at suppliers to the middle market retail sector were surveyed.

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