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Office Depot swings to profit in Q4

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Boca Raton, Fla. — Office Depot Inc. reported Monday that it swung to a profit of $12.3 million in the quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with a loss of $108.6 million in the year-ago period.

Revenue edged up to $2.97 billion in the quarter, from $2.96 billion last year, missing Wall Street’s expected break-even on $3 billion in sales. Same-store sales dropped 5%, due in large part to a move away from promotions to shore up profitability, said the company.

“Fourth quarter 2011 results were encouraging despite a slow economic recovery in the U.S. and increasing business pressures across Europe,” said Neil Austrian, chairman and CEO.

Sales in the North American Retail Division were $1.2 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011, flat versus the prior year.

Full year 2011 sales dipped 1% to $11.5 billion.

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Long lines drive smartphone users away

BY CSA STAFF

BOSTON — A survey sponsored by in-store commerce provider AisleBuyer found that nearly 40% of smartphone-carrying shoppers have abandoned their in-store purchases because of long lines, while 21% will abandon their purchases if there are no registers open.

“Mobile Shopping Survey Series, Part 1: Mobile Self-Service” asked more than 1,000 U.S. in-store shoppers with smartphones to share details about their retail shopping experiences. The survey also found that many smartphone-carrying shoppers "hate waiting in line," including more than half at grocery stores (52%) and at mass merchants (51%). Meanwhile, drug stores, quick service restaurants and club stores were ranked at 29%, 27% and 26%, respectively.

Other key data points from the survey include:

  • 64% of those surveyed expressed interest in scanning products from a store’s aisle using their smartphone to get such additional information as pricing, product reviews, nutritional information, related products, etc.;

  • 36% already have scanned items for more information using their smartphone; and

  • 60% of smartphone-carrying shoppers said they would use their mobile phone to pay during an in-store shopping trip if it meant they didn’t have to wait in line.

"Having to waiting in line at a store has a significant effect on a retailer’s bottom line," AisleBuyer CEO Andrew Paradise said. "Nearly half of shoppers said if a line is too long they will either leave the store without purchasing anything or only buy the few items they came for, without shopping the rest of the store. Giving these shoppers another way to pay — without having to wait in line — will increase the likelihood that they will ultimately purchase something in the store, rather than abandon the purchase due to frustration. The survey results clearly show that shoppers are interested in this alternative checkout experience — something savvy retailers are investing in as we speak.”

The AisleBuyer sponsored survey was conducted in February via Zoomeragn, an online survey services provider. The three-part survey’s results are based on 1027 respondents.

AisleBuyer is a provider of mobile commerce platforms for retailers, brands and quick service restaurants.

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Sears gets out of “Great Indoors”

BY CSA STAFF

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill.— Sears quietly added all nine of its Great Indoors stores to the list of store closings on Feb. 23.

Store managers were informed last week, a Sears spokeswoman confirmed, but no exact date has been given for the closings.

The upscale remodeling and home décor stores began opening in 1998, long before the Sears and Kmart merger. At one point, Sears operated 20 of the units, but they were never a big moneymaker for the company.

The nine remaining stores are located in Scottsdale and Chandler Ariz.; Lone Tree, Colo.; Lombard, Ill.; Gaithersburg, Md.; Novi, Mich.; Columbus, Ohio; Farmers Branch and Houston, Texas.

After posting a $2.4 billion loss for its fourth fiscal quarter, parent company Sears Holdings announced it would divest some of its real estate portfolio to help bolster its retail operation. This included some of its smaller Hometown and Outlet stores for $400 to $500 million as well as some hardware stores, as well as 11 stores to mall owner General Growth Properties to raise $270 million. That deal, which includes stores that are currently located on GGP properties, is expected to close in April.

An updated list of Sears and Kmart store closings, part of a plan announced in late December to eventually close 100 to 120 stores, can be found here.

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