FINANCE

J.C. Penney taps $850 million from credit facility

BY Marianne Wilson

Plano, Texas — J.C. Penney Co. on Monday announced it has drawn $850 million from its $1.85 billion revolving credit line. The company said it will use the proceeds to fund working capital requirements and capital expenditures including replenishing inventory in anticipation of the completion of for its newly overhauled in-store home departments, which are due to be unveiled next month.

"As we near completion of the home department transformation in over 500 stores, we have been undertaking and will continue to experience a significant inventory build and increase in capital expenditures," said CFO Ken Hannah.

Penney said it would continue to explore additional capital-raising alternatives with the help of its financial advisers.

The company says the drawing of the funds provides more than its current funding needs to ensure continued liquidity but it is also looking to explore other alternatives to raise more money.

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OPERATIONS

Sony expanding retail footprint

BY Marianne Wilson

San Diego — Sony Electronics is revving up its retail expansion, opening the doors to three newly remodeled Sony Stores and several brand new Sony Gallery experiences during the past few months. The company also unveiled a smaller-store format called Sony Gallery.

Following the debut of the redesigned Sony Store in the Simon Mall Stanford Shopping Center in Palo Alto, Calif., Sony announced it will open three new concept stores located in Miami, San Diego, and Orlando, Fla. The remodels will bring the total of U.S. redesigned stores to eight.

Sony’s retail expansion plans also include free-standing Sony Gallery. a curated assortment of Sony’s best products in a smaller store footprint. The first Sony Gallery opened this week at the Westfield UTC Mall in San Diego. Two more Sony Galleries will open in New Jersey and San Francisco next month, and additional locations are being planned in shopping centers across the country.

The Sony Gallery at UTC is the predecessor to another new Sony retail store concept that will open this fall, a "boutique" in size and style with the best TVs, cameras, computers and audio products and services Sony has on the market.

"We’re creating a new way to shop for consumer electronics," said Mike Fasulo, EVP sales operations for Sony Electronics. "People expect the best from Sony, and we want to exceed their expectations by providing a personal, memorable shopping experience to all of our guests, that keeps them and their families coming back again and again."

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FINANCE

Deloitte Consumer Spending Index holds steady

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — The Deloitte Consumer Spending Index ticked down slightly in March, but has remained relatively steady with a reading over 4.0 the past five months. The Index tracks consumer cash flow as an indicator of future consumer spending.

"The drastic ups and downs among factors including wages, home prices and unemployment claims have subsided, delivering more stability to the Index, which remains at a level consistent with real personal consumption growth of around 2 percent at an annual rate," said Patricia Buckley , director, economic policy and analysis, Deloitte Services LP, and author of the monthly Index. "Rising real home prices and small but steady consumer spending increases are among factors suggesting the country may be poised for growth this year, should the economy avoid negative impacts from Europe’s financial troubles or the debt ceiling debate this summer."

The Index, which comprises four components — tax burden, initial unemployment claims, real wages and real home prices — fell slightly this month to 4.12 from a reading of 4.37 the previous month.

"Consumers have maintained their level of spending in recent months and retailers should be encouraged by the economic signals," said Alison Paul , vice chairman, Deloitte LLP and retail & distribution sector leader. "However, retailers do not have the wind entirely at their backs this month: Consumers with their tax refunds may be a welcome sight in April, but the month will come without the usual Easter holiday to boost sales. Retailers should simultaneously focus on consumers’ pent up demand and tax refunds, coaxing shoppers to leave behind the winter’s chill and replace the items that were on the back burner, while giving them a promotional incentive to combine those purchases in the retailer’s store."

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