REAL ESTATE

Dickey’s Barbecue opening seven new locations

BY Michael Fickes

Dallas — Dickey’s Barbecue will open seven new locations this week — in Kent, Wash.; Richland, Miss.; Vienna, Va.; Colorado Springs, Colo.; Clinton Township, Mich.; Yonkers, N.Y.; and Dallas.

The fast-growing 391-unit restaurant chain has added more than 200 stores in the past two years. There are more than 150 stores in development.

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FINANCE

Facebook spends $2 billion to acquire virtual reality company

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Facebook has seen the future — through 3D goggles. The social media giant has reached an agreement to acquire hot virtual reality technology start-up Oculus VR for $2 billion. The deal is comprised of $400 million in cash and 23.1 million shares of Facebook stock.

Oculus’ signature product is the Oculus Rift, a virtual reality “headset” whose goggles fill the user’s field of vision with high-resolution screens that create 3-D images. The company has created strong interest among developers, Facebook said, having received more than 75,000 orders for development kits.

The acquisition comes on the heels of Facebook’s $19 billion acquisition of mobile messaging service WhatsApp.

"The history of our industry is that every 10 or 15 years there’s a new major computing platform, whether it’s the PC, the Web or now mobile. "We’re making a long-term bet that immersive, virtual and augmented reality will become a part of people’s daily life," Facebook co-founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a conference call with analysts and media on Tuesday.

In the statement announcing the acquisition, Zuckerberg said that while “mobile is the platform of today, and now we’re also getting ready for the platforms of tomorrow. Oculus has the chance to create the most social platform ever, and change the way we work, play and communicate.

While the applications for virtual reality technology beyond gaming are in their nascent stages, several industries are already experimenting with the technology. Facebook plans to extend Oculus’ existing advantage in gaming to new verticals, including communications, media and entertainment, education and other areas.

"Immersive gaming will be the first….,” Zuckerberg wrote on Facebook. “But this is just the start. After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face — just by putting on goggles in your home."

“We are excited to work with Mark and the Facebook team to deliver the very best virtual reality platform in the world,” said Brendan Iribe, co-founder and CEO of Oculus VR. “We believe virtual reality will be heavily defined by social experiences that connect people in magical, new ways. It is a transformative and disruptive technology, that enables the world to experience the impossible, and it’s only just the beginning.”

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News

Mother Nature hits Francesca’s in fourth quarter

BY CSA STAFF

Francesca’s sales results for the fourth quarter were below its revised guidance, thanks in part to extreme weather conditions, which forced the company to fully or partially close 370 boutiques during January.

The company’s net income for the quarter decreased to $10.6 million, from $14.9 million in the year-ago quarter. Same-store sales decreased 6%, swinging from a 10% increase in the prior year quarter. Revenue increased to $92.1 million from $86.7 million, helped by 91 new boutique openings since the prior year quarter. Five of the 91 locations opened during the fourth quarter.

But the headwinds the company experienced in January have continued into the first quarter, affecting its ability to clear through seasonal fall and winter products and resulting in the delay of spring season full-price selling.

“Although initial customer reaction to our spring apparel fashion is strong, clarity and timing of spring 2014 customer buying trends remain uncertain,” explained president and CEO Neill P. Davis. “Our outlook for the quarter is based on current trends and an expectation of continued soft traffic through the balance of the first quarter.”

For the full year, profit dipped to $44.8 million from $47.1 million, comps fell 2%, and sales increased 15% to $340.3 million.

Francesca’s said it plans to open approximately 60 new stores during the first quarter as compared to 56 openings during the prior year quarter. For the full year, the company will open about 85 stores, down from its 91 openings in the previous year.

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