FINANCE

Drama at the mall, Aeropostale explores options

BY Mike Troy

A review of strategic alternatives is underway at mall-based specialty retailer Aeropostale following the deterioration of fourth quarter results and a supply chain disruption caused by a supplier dispute.

Sale declined 16.1% to $498 million and same-store sales, including e-commerce, declined 6.7%. Profits declined to $21.7 million, or 27 cents a share, compared to a prior year fourth quarter loss of $13.5 million, 17 cents a share.

In commenting on the company’s performance, Aeropostale CEO Julian Geiger cited a $7.6 million adjusted operating loss which he said was within guidance and a positive initial reaction to spring product. However, he also disclosed that management plans to explore a full range of strategic and financial alternatives, including a potential sale or restructuring of the company, while it pursues a new merchandising strategy across two formats.

"The business trend has improved significantly since we introduced our spring merchandise assortments and launched our factory store initiative,” Geiger said. “Under normal conditions, we would be very optimistic about our potential for financial growth throughout the first half of 2016. Regrettably, our short-term visibility is limited by our current vendor dispute."

The company is currently engaged in a dispute with a vendor, MGF Sourcing US, LLC, an affiliate of Sycamore Partners, over what it believes is a violation of a sourcing agreement. Sycamore Partner also happens to be the parent company of the lender under Aeropostale’s term loan agreement.

“This violation is causing a disruption in the supply of some merchandise, which, if unresolved, could cause a liquidity constraint,” Aeropsostale said in a statement. “The company is considering all options with respect to this dispute and to address the disruption in supply.”

If the supply issue is resolved, Geiger believes the company’s new strategy of differentiating merchandise in fashion oriented stores in higher end malls from product available in outlet and lower end malls will yield improved performance.

“On a relative basis the malls in which the customers are seeking fashion represent about 40% of our stores, while the remaining malls and outlets that attract a customer interested in a more basic assortment account for about 60%,” Geiger said. “We believe that a more immediate focus on the larger store group that we will now be calling factory stores will accelerate the pace of our financial improvement.”

Geiger assumed the chief merchant role last July after joining the company in 2014 as CEO, having previously served as CEO from 2010 to 2014.

In recent months the company added the word “factory” to the exterior signage at some stores while adjusting assortments to include heavily promoted basics and logo merchandise designed to appeal to customers seeking value.

“The product assortment within these (factory) stores will be more narrow and deep, with some merchandise exclusive to factory stores arriving for back-to-school. The assortment on average will also have less fashion, which is less desired by our factory customers,” Geiger said.

At the non-factory Aeropostale stores that account for 40% of the locations, the company said it will de-emphasize logo merchandise and offer updated classics with a twist.

The company will continue to have one design team and one merchandising team for both store types as much of the merchandise will be the same, however there will also be products developed exclusively for each concept.

“We believe that there is a real opportunity to improve both sales and margin across our organization through both our revamped merchandise assortment as well as our bifurcated store strategy,” Geiger said. “We expect to see improvements more quickly in the factory channel, given our ability to foster change in sales promotion and in presentation.”

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C-SUITE

Target names two IT executives

BY CSA STAFF

Target Corp. is expanding the management of its technology organization with two new executive hires.

Tom Kadlec will join Target as senior VP of infrastructure and operations. He will be tasked with leading efforts to modernize and enhance Target’s technology foundation. The company also announced the hiring of Joel Crabb as VP of architecture, with responsibility for enterprise architecture, agile practices and Application Program Interfaces (APIs).

Kadlec has nearly 25 years of global technology experience in retail and finance, including 17 years spent in various leadership positions at Tesco PLC, where he most recently was group technology director for the UK-based grocer. Prior to that, Kadlec worked in the Czech Republic and Hungary for Tesco, and led the retailer’s operations and infrastructure team through transformation and the retiring of many legacy applications. Kadlec comes to Target from Virtual Clarity, a cloud technologies implementation consultancy.

Crabb has more than 20 years of experience in technology and engineering. He joined Target from Best Buy Co., where he worked for more than five years, most recently as chief architect and head of digital engineering. Prior to that, he held various technology leadership and engineering posts at companies in the Minneapolis area.

“Tom and Joel bring decades of technology and engineering experience to Target, along with proven track records of building and implementing cutting-edge technologies for retailers,” said Mike McNamara, CIO, Target. “Adding leaders of this caliber will propel the progress we’re making to strengthen Target’s engineering muscle, enhance our foundational systems and bring new technology innovations to life for our guests.”

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REAL ESTATE

Ross Stores on the move in California

BY Marianne Wilson

Ross Dress for Less opened a new store North El Centro, California on March 5. The opening is part of the retailer’s 2016 expansion program, totaling about 70 new locations during the year.

The 26,000- sq.-ft. store is located at Centro Commons, 11 miles north of the California-Mexico border, at the intersection of Imperial Avenue and Cruickshank Drive. With this location, Ross operates 277 stores in California, its largest state.

Together, Ross Dress for Less and dd’s discounts currently operate approximately 1,500 off-price apparel and home fashion stores in 34 states, the District of Columbia and Guam.

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