OPERATIONS

NRF: Retail employment up year-over-year, could be higher

BY Dan Berthiaume

Washington, D.C. – The National Retail Federation (NRF) calculated that retail employment was down 21,600 jobs in January 2014, yet up 230,000 jobs year-over-year. December retail employment figures were revised up to a gain of 57,000 jobs.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics Employment Situation report showed that January total nonfarm payroll employment rose by 113,000, with the unemployment rate at 6.6% and the labor force participation rate at 63%.

NRF research shows that much of the retail job loss was due to severe weather and localized in sporting goods, hobby, book and music stores. NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said the government needs to do more to improve the job situation.

“While it is always positive to see an increase in private sector hiring and a decrease in unemployment, it is alarming that employment can’t shift into a higher gear,” said Shay. “Despite seasonal factors at play in today’s employment report, it remains incumbent on policymakers to lead the nation’s recovery and move beyond partisan disputes over raising the debt ceiling and refocus attention on patent, tax and immigration reform, which will spur economic growth, opportunity and job creation.”

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FINANCE

Bebe posts Q4 loss

BY Dan Berthiaume

Brisbane, Calif. – Bebe Stores Inc. had a difficult second quarter of fiscal 2014, reporting a net loss of $5.5 million. Net sales declined 4.1% to $130 million, from $135.5 million reported for the second quarter a year ago. Same-store sales decreased 1.9%.

CEO Steve Birkhold acknowledged challenges, but cited sequential improvement in same-store sales and holiday sales, as well.

“We are encouraged by the sequential improvement we experienced in the second quarter, especially during Black Friday weekend and the month of December,” said Birkhold. “December continued the sequential improvement with positive comparable store sales, as we saw a favorable response to the new merchandise and an increase in traffic, despite declining mall traffic and an aggressive promotional environment across the industry.”

Bebe expects flat same-store sales for the third quarter of fiscal 2014. For the remainder of fiscal year 2014, the company plans to close up to six Bebe stores and one 2b Bebe store, which will result in approximately an 8% decrease in total store square footage from the end of fiscal year 2013.

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FINANCE

Kirkland’s sales rise in 2013

BY Dan Berthiaume

Nashville, Tenn. – Kirkland’s Inc. reported improved year-over-year net sales for the full fiscal year 2014 but a decrease in the fourth quarter. Net sales increased 2.7% to $460.6 million during fiscal 2014, compared with $448.4 million the prior fiscal year, while same-store sales rose 0.5%.

During the fourth quarter, net sales decreased 4.2% to $156.1 million, compared with $162.9 million in the previous fourth quarter. Same-store sales were flat.

“Not surprisingly, we have not been immune to the challenging weather and compressed holiday season that other retailers have noted to date in the quarter,” said Robert Alderson, president and CEO of Kirkland’s. “Although we began with a strong November and a record Black Friday weekend, we experienced frequent and severe weather-related declines in traffic throughout December affecting important weekend sales days that could not be recovered. Sales trends improved during January, but were again negatively impacted by the latest group of storms affecting the South and Southeast. Winter will not last forever and as we enter fiscal 2014, we remain confident about our sales, multichannel, branding and store growth plans.”

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