FINANCE

RadioShack swings to loss in Q4

BY Marianne Wilson

Fort Worth, Texas — RadioShack Corp. reported a greater-than-expected net loss of $63.3 million in the fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, compared with a profit of $11.9 million a year earlier.

Total sales edged down to $1.3 billion compared to $1.39 billion last year. Comparable-store sales fell 7%, hurt by a decline in the performance of its postpaid wireless business.

In a regulatory filing on Tuesday, the chain said that its cash and cash equivalents fell to $535.7 million at the end of 2012 from $591.7 million a year ago. The chain said its liquidity may be hurt further in 2013 as it may have to issue letters of credit under a 2016 credit facility.

Analysts said that RadioShack’s declining performance pointed to the challenge facing its new CEO, Joseph Magnacca, who is trying to transform the struggling electronics chain into a specialty retailer of mobile devices. Magnacca took the reins of RadioShack on Feb.11.

"Looking ahead, we will be focused on stabilizing the profitability of our business as well as our growth initiatives,” said Dorvin D. Lively, EVP, CFO and chief administrative officer of RadioShack Corp. Lively said. “With the addition of Joe and other new senior executives, we now have a strong management team in place focused on rebuilding the business and leading the company into the future."

For the full year, total net sales and operating revenue were $4.3 billion, compared to $4.4 billion last year. Same-store store sales fell 3.5%.

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OPERATIONS

Publix leads all retailers in customer satisfaction, followed by Amazon and Office Depot

BY Marianne Wilson

Ann Arbor, Mich. — Customer satisfaction with retailers is on the rise, according to a report released by the American Customer Satisfaction Index. In fact, it’s at an all time high, up 0.7% to 76.6 in 2012 on ACSI’s 100-point scale. And once again, Publix is on top, outperforming all other retailers (physical and pure online players) with a score of 86.

By category, overall satisfaction with department and discount stores increased 1.3% to 77. Nordstrom led the category at 84, followed by J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, and Target, all of whom scored 81. Walmart was once again at the bottom (+1% to 71).

“A big part of Wal-Mart’s challenge is that it is no longer the only game in town when it comes to discounting,” said Claes Fornell, ACSI founder. “Twenty years ago, Wal-Mart was able to beat the industry average for customer satisfaction — not because merchandise quality was better, but because it was close enough to, or on par with, competition and it had the low-price market essentially to itself. According to customers, neither is true today.”

Supermarkets showed an ACSI benchmark of 77 in 2012, up 1.3% since 2011.

Among grocers (and all other retailers), Publix reigns supreme when it comes to customer satisfaction, just as it has done in every year since the ACSI’s inception in 1994. In 2012, Publix gained 2% to a score of 86, widening the gap with Whole Foods Market, which has leveled off at 80 following four straight years of gains. Kroger is unchanged at 79, followed by Winn-Dixie, up 4% to 78.

Office Depot led the specialty sector, up 6% to 84, followed by Costco Wholesale Club, unchanged at 83.

On the e-commerce side, satisfaction with online retail rose 1.2% over last year to 82. Amazon continues to lead the sector despite a 1% drop to 85, followed by Newegg at 84 and eBay at 83.

“By and large, Internet retail remains a more amiable way of shopping for a variety of merchandise,” Fornell said. “It is worth noting, however, that there are exceptions to the rule. The cream of the crop in traditional retail — Publix, Nordstrom, Office Depot and Costco — all outperform the average customer satisfaction benchmark for Internet retail.”

Founded at the University of Michigan’s Ross School of Business, the ACSI is a national economic indicator of customer evaluations of the quality of products and services available to household consumers in the United States. The ACSI uses data from interviews with roughly 70,000 customers annually as inputs to an econometric model for measuring satisfaction with more than 230 companies in 47 industries and 10 economic sectors, as well as over 100 services, programs, and websites of federal government agencies.

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FINANCE

Vitamin Shoppe Q4 profit up 3%, hurt by Superstorm Hurricane

BY Marianne Wilson

North Bergen, N.J. — Vitamin Shoppe Inc. said Tuesday its fourth-quarter net income rose 3% to $9.7 million, up from $9.4 million in the year-ago period.

Revenue rose 2% in the quarter ended Dec. 29, to $218.9 million from $214.9 million. Same-store sales rose 5.2%. Online sales grew 13%. The company said that its sales growth was partially offset by the impact of Superstorm Sandy, which negatively impacted comparable sales by 1.6%. Also, when compared with the same period in the prior year, the chain’s fourth quarter had one less selling week.

Vitamin Shoppe opened 15 stores during the quarter, including its first two in Canada, bringing its store count to 579.

Vitamin Shoppe plans to open about 50 new stores this year, compared with 54 in 2012.

For the full year, profit rose 35% to $60.8 million. Revenue increased 11% to $950.9 million.

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