REAL ESTATE

Former Sears CEO Dies at 73

BY CSA STAFF

Chicago Edward A. Brennan, who started as a sales associate at a Sears store in Wisconsin and rose to become chairman and CEO of Sears, Roebuck and Co. in the mid-1980s, died Thursday at his home in Burr Ridge, Ill., after a brief illness. He was 73.

Brennan was the third generation of his family to work for the company. His grandfather worked with founder Richard Sears and his father and four uncles all worked as Sears buyers. His younger brother, Bernard Brennan, also worked for Sears but left in the mid-1970s, eventually becoming one of his brother’s biggest rivals as head of Montgomery Ward & Co.

Brennan began working for Sears in 1956, shortly after graduating from college, and rose steadily through the ranks. He was appointed chairman and CEO of Sears, Roebuck and Co. in 1986, when the company was at its peak as the nation’s largest retailer and a financial conglomerate whose holdings included Allstate insurance, Dean Witter Financial Services Group and Coldwell Banker & Company, the real estate firm.

Critics contend that Brennan was slow to respond to the threat posed by discount chains, particularly the upstart Wal-Mart. He led the company through several rounds of cost-cutting and big layoffs in the early 1990s, and bowed to shareholder pressure to spin off the company’s financial divisions: By the time Brennan retired from Sears in 1995, Sears had lost much of its dominance to the Bentonville retailer. It had also lost ownership of its namesake skyscraper in Chicago, the Sears Tower.

During his retirement, Brennan sat on a number of corporate boards, including those of McDonald’s and 3M. He was a director at American Airlines when the carrier was on the verge of bankruptcy in 2003, and after chief executive Donald Carty abruptly resigned, fellow board members tapped Brennan to become American’s executive chairman and president. He held the executive chairman post for a year and helped American steer clear of the journey through Chapter 11 that befell United Airlines.

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Most Competitive Retailers

BY CSA STAFF

Under Armour, Victoria’s Secret and Bed Bath & Beyond came out on top in an annual survey of the nation’s most competitive retailers. Conducted by Capgemini U.S. LLC and W Ratings Corp., the “Most Competitive Retailers Study” measures the ability of companies to simultaneously meet consumer expectations and deliver superior profits. It reviews a company’s performance across nine different sources of competitive advantage. The ratings are combined with the firm’s trailing five-year average economic profit to calculate the competitive ranking. More than 6,000 consumers were interviewed as part of the study.

“The retail environment remains a difficult industry to make money on a consistent basis,” said Gary A. Williams, founder and CEO, W Ratings Corp. “Yet certain companies are finding ways to do just that by incorporating strategies from outside their core industry. For example, Starbucks has been extending their routine reliance—one of the nine sources of competitive advantage—from coffee and food, to wireless access and music. This strategy not only reinforces their brand with consumers as the ‘third place’ besides work and home, but also builds on the successful network effect of Apple’s iTunes.”

The top 20 most competitive retailers, according to the study, were:

UnderArmour

Victoria’s Secret (tie)

Bed Bath & Beyond (tie)

The UPS Store

Ross Stores

Chico’s

CVS (tie)

Gymboree (tie)

DHL (tie)

Carter’s

Niketown

The Home Depot

Banana Republic

Petco

Williams-Sonoma

Lowe’s

Walgreens

Starbucks Coffee Co.

Cabela’s

Target

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Batra to head Victoria’s Secret Beauty

BY CSA STAFF

COLUMBUS, Ohio Shashi Batra, president of N.V. Perricone, will join Limited Brands as president of Victoria’s Secret Beauty on Jan. 22, Limited Brands announced Wednesday.

As president of N.V. Perricone, Batra was responsible for the company’s U.S. and global operations and led its dramatic growth across all channels during his tenure there. Before his role leading Perricone, Batra was one of the original founding members of Sephora USA. His previous leadership and merchandising work in beauty included growing the cosmetics businesses at major brands including Estee Lauder, Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy’s and Christian Dior.

“Victoria’s Secret Beauty has shown incredible promise both domestically and abroad. We are elated to have Shashi lead our team with his vast experience as a merchant in the beauty industry which is complemented by his international business acumen,” said Leslie Wexner, chairman of the board and ceo of Limited Brands.

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