OPERATIONS

Office Depot to close 400 stores by 2016

BY Marianne Wilson

Boca Raton, Fla. — Office Depot will close at least 400 U.S. stores during the next two years as part of its plan to consolidate operations after its acquisition of OfficeMax last November. The closings were not unexpected since there are many locations where the two brands have stores in close proximity to one another. The retailer also raised its full-year adjusted operating income forecast after reporting better-than-expected first quarter results amid cost cutting efforts.

Office Depot said the stores will be closed by 2016, with 150 of the shutterings coming at the end of this year. The company, which currently operates about 2,000 stores, said it had not finalized which locations would be closed.

“One of our 2014 critical priorities is to improve our store footprint in North America to best meet customer demand, ensure we are appropriately positioned in the markets we serve, and align with our unique selling proposition which we are developing this year,” said Roland Smith, chairman and CEO of Office Depot. “The overlapping retail footprint resulting from the merger provides us with a unique opportunity to consolidate and optimize our store portfolio, while maintaining the retail presence necessary to serve our customers.”

Smith said the company anticipates the store closures will generate annual run-rate synergies of at least $75 million by the end of 2016, and will begin to be accretive to earnings in 2015.

Big-box office supply retailers have been hit hard by changing shopping patterns and online competition. In March, Office Depot rival Staples announced it planned to close 225 stores in North America.

In the three months ended March 29, Office Depot reported a net loss of $109 million, compared to the same period a year ago, before the purchase of Office Max, when the company suffered a loss of $7 million. Sales rose to $4.4 billion, from $2.7 billion last year. The company reported $96 million in merger-related charges.

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Rite Aid names former Dick’s Sporting Goods exec as CIO

BY Marianne Wilson

Camp Hill, Pa. — Rite Aid has named Matt Lynch, an information technology executive with nearly 30 years’ experience, as senior VP and chief information officer. Most recently, Lynch served as senior VP and CIO for Dick’s Sporting Goods. Before that, he held various executive information technology positions at ShopKo.

At Rite Aid, Lynch succeeds Don Davis, who is retiring from the company after 14 years of service. Lynch will be responsible for all aspects of the drugstore chain’s technology and information operations, including computer systems, network infrastructure, telecommunications and data security.

“Matt is a seasoned information technology professional with diverse business systems’ management and deep retail experience,” said Frank Vitrano, senior executive VP, CFO, and chief administrative officer, Rite Aid. “Additionally, his expertise with advanced systems — spanning all key business functions — will be extremely beneficial to Rite Aid as we continue to enhance our information technology and services platforms to help us achieve our dual goals of delivering a superior customer experience and driving continued growth for our company.”

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Publix taps Apex to boost retail audit recoveries

BY Marianne Wilson

Greensboro, N.C. — Apex Analytix, a provider of services and software to safeguard disbursements, identify fraud and improve performance across the procure-to-pay cycle, announced it has been chosen to provide retail audit software to Publix Super Markets.

Publix will use Apex Analytix FirstStrike Retail, an application used to audit large volumes of data in high-transaction retail environments. Experience shows that internal recovery audit teams armed with FirstStrike are able to achieve far more recoveries in much less time, according to Apex.

Publix plans to use FirstStrike to audit hundreds of millions of warehouse and direct-to-store invoice records for pricing errors, store receiving errors and improper unfulfilled orders. Internal auditors will use the software to identify, write and administer claims and to generate detailed reports on transactions, claims and recovery status – all within the same application interface.

The application works by consolidating transaction data from a retailer’s internal systems and analyzing it using powerful algorithms. With automated tools at their fingertips, internal audit teams can find more recovery opportunities and reduce audit cycle time.

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