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ICSC: Shopping-center sales will rise 2.2% in 2011

BY Marianne Wilson

New York City — Shopping-center sales in November and December are expected to increase 2.2% relative to the same period a year ago, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. In 2010, the holiday season posted a 5% gain following two back-to-back declines during the 2007-09 recession.

The organization has forecast that U.S. holiday sales in 2011 will post a moderate 3% gain, down from 2.1% last year.

More broadly, the three common measures of holiday sales — shopping-center sales, ICSC’s composite of major chains and “GAFO-store” sales — all are expected to increase in 2011 by a slower pace of between 0.3 and 2.8% points, depending on the metric, compared with last year’s holiday performance.

“Although there are many statistics and surveys that convey the magnitude of holiday sales, the qualitative themes are more important than a ‘point estimate’ based on any specific metric,” noted Michael P. Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist and VP for research.

The important themes of the ICSC holiday 2011 sales forecast include the following:

  • No matter which metric of performance is used, ICSC projects 2011 U.S. holiday sales are likely to advance at a slower pace than in 2010 as strong economic headwinds continue to persist.
  • The 2011 holiday season forecast also envisions a pace of sales considerably slower than during the first half of 2011 since retail sales generally advanced at a faster pace in early 2011 than during the 2010 holiday season.
  • Compared with the previous 10-year sales performance, 2011 is likely to be near-to-above average depending on the sales metric.
  • The economic and political risks are expected to be higher during the upcoming season than during 2010.

On balance, ICSC’s 2011 holiday sales forecast portrays a moderately healthy performance, Niemira added.

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Walmart to launch global e-commerce empowerment solution for women

BY Staff Writer

New York City — Walmart plans to launch a dedicated page on Walmart.com that will feature an assortment of products created by women in nearly two dozen countries, including women who work in cooperatives and own small businesses. Scheduled to be available in spring 2012, products will include jewelry from Guatemala, Thailand and Ethiopia; coffee from Central and South America; and dresses from Kenya.

The news builds on the goals that the chain announced last week around global women’s economic empowerment. By 2016, the dedicated e-commerce site will feature approximately 500 items – from apparel and jewelry, to stationery and accessories – by more than 20,000 women in nearly two dozen countries.

“The challenge for small women-owned businesses – and particularly women artisans – is that they have a fantastic product, but they may not have the size or scale to sell in our brick-and-mortar stores," Leslie Dach, Walmart’s executive VP corporate affairs, said at the Clinton Global Initiative Annual Meeting in New York City. "This commitment today gives these women access to an established set of customers on Walmart.com, as well as the benefit of the company’s knowledge about customers, packaging and promotions."

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Report: BJ’s reduces LBO loan

BY Staff Writer

New York City — BJ’s Wholesale Club reduced the size and increased the rate on $2.18 billion of loans backing its buyout by Leonard Green & Partners LLP and CVC Capital Partners, Bloomberg reported.

The retailer cut a first-lien piece by $50 million to $1.075 billion, the report said, citing a source who declined to be identified.

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