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Lowe’s bolsters IT infrastructure

BY CSA STAFF

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — Lowe’s has announced plans to hire up to 300 information technology professionals, including 150 new positions.

Lowe’s reported that positions are now open across all IT professions, including business analysis, engineering, communications network, ecommerce, application development, program management and project management. The positiobns will be based at Lowe’s corporate headquarters in Mooresville, N.C.

“The walls of our stores have expanded as our customers and employees rely on technology to plan and execute their home improvement needs,” said Mike Brown, Lowe’s chief information officer. “Lowe’s is looking for the most knowledgeable and talented IT professionals to help us meet our goal of supporting an industry-leading technology infrastructure that provides the best platforms and tools to exceed our customers’ expectations and create a first-class work environment for our employees.”

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Gas prices put pressure on consumers

BY CSA STAFF

WASHINGTON — An Associated Press/GfK poll released Friday determined that rising gas prices will cause “serious” hardship for as much as 41% of Americans.

Almost 3-in-4 adults acknowledged that $4 per gallon or more at the pump will at least cause some hardship.

By income, 63% of those with annual household incomes more than $50,000 said rising prices are now causing them financial hardship, up from 55% in March. More than 75% of households with incomes of less than $50,000 continue to report financial hardship. The share of seniors expressing financial hardship over gas prices hit 76%; it was 68% in March, AP reported.

As of Friday, the average cost of a gallon of regular gasoline was $3.886, down from $3.905 Thursday, according to AAA’s "Daily Fuel Gauge Report."

Other polls have made similar determinations. AAA’s survey of intended Memorial Day travelers found that 6-out-of-10 said rising gasoline prices would not impact their travel plans. Of the remaining 4-out-of-10 travelers who said rising gas prices would impact their travel plans, 70% will economize in other areas, and the rest will take a shorter trip or travel by an alternate mode of transportation.

AAA projected 34.9 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more from home during the Memorial Day holiday weekend, a slight increase of 0.2% — or 100,000 travelers — from the 34.8 million people who traveled one year ago. “Memorial Day travel experienced a gain of more than 14% in 2010, and this year we expect to add slightly to that gain due to an increase in air travel and an improvement in the overall domestic economic picture,” AAA president and CEO Robert Darbelnet said. “Some travelers will compensate for the higher fuel costs by cutting other areas of their travel budgets.”

According to the AAA survey released Thursday, the average distance traveled by Americans during the Memorial Day holiday weekend is expected to be 792 miles, which is 27% greater than last year’s average travel distance of 626 miles. Air travel is expected to gain a larger share of overall travel and likely is the cause of a substantial increase in the average travel distance compared with a year ago. Median spending is expected to be $692, a decrease of 14% from $809 last year.

The Memorial Day holiday travel period is defined as Thursday, May 26 to Monday, May 30.

The AP/GfK poll found that the increase in gas pricing most likely will impact discretionary spending, with 72% reporting they would have to cut back on other expenses in an effort to accommodate the rising fuel costs. As many as 66% reported they would drive less; and 48% suggested they would change vacation plans.

The Associated Press/GfK Poll was conducted May 5 to 9 by GfK Roper Public Affairs and Corporate Communications. It involved landline and cellphone interviews with 1,001 adults nationwide and has a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 4.2 percentage points, AP reported.

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Ann Inc. raises outlook on strong EPS performance

BY CSA STAFF

NEW YORK — Ann Inc., the parent company of Ann Taylor and Ann Taylor Loft stores, reported that forthe fiscal first quarter of 2011, earnings per diluted share were 51 cents, compared with earnings per diluted share of 38 cents in the first quarter of 2010.

Kay Krill, president and CEO, commented, "Ann Inc. delivered a very strong first quarter performance, achieving significant double-digit growth in sales, earnings and earnings per share. We are particularly gratified that this performance came on top of very strong results in last year’s first quarter, as comparable sales for the Company rose 8% on top of last year’s 14% increase, with both the Ann Taylor and Loft brands delivering positive comparable sales.

"Looking ahead, and coming off of a very strong April in both brands, we fully expect to deliver positive comparable sales performance in both brands and across all channels for the second quarter. We are also well-positioned to achieve continued profitable growth in 2011 and beyond."

Total net sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2011 were $523.6 million, compared with net sales of $476.2 million in the first quarter of fiscal 2010. By brand, net sales across all channels of the Ann Taylor brand totaled $222.9 million in the first quarter of 2011, compared with net sales of $198.4 million in the first quarter of 2010. At the Loft brand, net sales across all channels totaled $300.8 million in the first quarter of 2011, compared with net sales of $277.8 million in the first quarter of 2010.

Total company comparable sales for the quarter increased 7.8% versus the first quarter of 2010. At Ann Taylor, total brand comparable sales increased 15.3%, reflecting increases of 13.7% at Ann Taylor stores, 43.1% in the Ann Taylor e-commerce channel and 9.2% in the Ann Taylor Factory channel. At Loft, total brand comparable sales were up 2.4%, reflecting a slight decrease of 1% at Loft stores, which was more than offset by increases of 32.8% in the Loft e-commerce channel and 15.7% in the Loft Outlet channel.

During the first quarter of fiscal 2011, the company opened 32 stores, comprised of three Loft stores, 25 Loft Outlet stores, and four Ann Taylor Factory stores. During the quarter, the company closed five Loft stores. The total store count at the end of the fiscal first quarter was 923, comprised of 266 Ann Taylor stores, 500 Loft stores, 96 Ann Taylor Factory stores and 61 Loft Outlet stores.

For the fiscal second quarter of 2011, the company expects total net sales to be $550 million, reflecting a total company comparable sales increase in the mid-single digits.

The company currently expects fiscal 2011 total net sales to approach $2.2 billion, reflecting a total Company comparable sales increase in the mid-single digits.

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