Remembering Jack Buley
On March 22, 2011, Canadian retailer tb!s The Bargain Shop named top American retail executive Beryl “Jack” Buley as its new president and CEO. A week later, on March 29, I sat down with Buley to discuss his new position for our then-upcoming June/July issue. Eight weeks later, he was dead.
Why, after almost five months, am I now writing about this, you ask? Because I just found out. The news of Buley’s tragic death wasn’t publicized. In fact, our June/July 2011 feature story – on page 20 – came out as planned, and we had no idea that he had already been laid to rest weeks before the publication was mailed.
It somehow seems remiss not to relate a little of what I know about Jack Buley. He was an American retail star, having served 16 years with Kohl’s Corp. – most recently as executive VP of stores – and then as division president of Dollar General Corp. before being lured north to realize his CEO dream at The Bargain Shop in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada.
The 238-store Canadian discounter was lucky to get Buley. They felt sure that he would do for them what he did for Dollar General, which was to elevate the retail experience. He likely would have, if he had had the chance. On May 22, 2011, on his 50th birthday, he died in a car accident in Franklin, Tenn., leaving behind his wife Cathy and three children.
He never was able to effect long-term change at The Bargain Shop. But I feel certain that his presence lingers on. Even after just one hour with him, I realized him to be one of those larger-than-life guys who would light up a room and take a bull by the horns. He talked to me about growing up in Oklahoma, about working for his dad, about his participative style of leadership. He said he would never ask someone to do something in a store that he hadn’t done himself.
Retail needs more leaders like Buley. And now there is one less. For that, I am truly saddened.
September solid, but not enough to elevate comp outlook
How good was the 5.3% same-store sales increase Target reported for September? We know it was toward the upper end of the company’s official guidance that called for a low to mid single-digit gain, but according to Richard Hastings with Global Hunter Securities it was the company’s best showing in September since 2006.
“Target seems to be finding renewed, favorable foundations for sales growth going into the holiday season, in our view,” according to Hasting. “A variety of areas of execution seem to be coming together to form a better basis for sales growth to persist through the holiday season.”
For example, Target appears to be delivering on its strategy of capturing a larger share of wallet from its best customers as an increase in average transaction size was the primary driver of September’s comp increase. Comparable-store transactions also increased a little more than 1%, inventories were said to be in very good condition and all regions of the country reported healthy gains. A good month to be sure, but Target chairman, president and CEO Gregg Steinhafel remained reserved in his tone and outlook for October comps in the low to mid single digits.
“We’re very pleased with our September comparable-store sales, which were somewhat ahead of our expectations. We experienced strong sales results throughout the month and across a broad array of merchandise categories, demonstrating Target’s ability to deliver on both sides of our “Expect More. Pay Less” brand promise and generate strong financial performance even in this soft economic environment,” Steinhafel said.
In terms of category performance, it was more of the same with food comps growing in the mid teens with beauty up in the high single digits. The overall household essentials category grew faster than the overall 5.3% increase. Comp-store sales in apparel and accessories were up more than the company average, led by a double-digit increase in the intimate, hosiery and performance categories and a high single-digit increase in kids’ apparel. The softest performance was in the jewelry and accessories area.
Comp-store sales in hardlines decreased in the low single-digit range with the strongest performance in toys and the softest performance again in electronics. Comp store sales in home furnishings decor increased in the low single-digit range, led by a mid single-digit increase in domestics, with the softest performance in decorative home.
Toy catalog to offer more of everything
Target’s toy catalog is set for release on Nov. 1 and will feature an expanded assortment displayed across eight additional pages with discount coupons for savings of more than $350.
To help busy parents stay organized during the holiday season, the toy catalog focuses on list building and includes checkboxes next to every item, and a special tear-out list for kids to complete. According to the company, it is offering nearly 7,000 toys online and in stores and will offer discounts on 2,000 of those items throughout the season.
“Target has all of the toys that kids will love, and with our expanded Toy Catalog, it’s easier than ever for gift-givers to make their choices and save at the same time,” said Stephanie Lucy, Target’s VP toys.
Some of the items expected to top wish lists this year, according to Target, include, FIJIT Friends, Barbie Printable Hairtastic, Doll,Lite Sprites Wand and Sprite, Nerf Vortex Nitron Blaster, Star Wars Ultimate FX LightSaber, Air Hogs Hyperactives RC Vehicle, Paper Jamz Pro Series Mic, Lego Millennium Falcon, Imaginext T-Rex Thomas and Friends Trackmaster Cranky and Flynn Save the Day. Also among top wish list items from Target’s perspectives are some of its exclusives, including, Monster High Doll 5-pack, Flying Fairies, Disney My First Princess Doll and Toddler Dress Gift Set, Lalaloopsy Crumb’s Bake off- Doll with Kitchen Set and Disney Cars 2 Charge Ups Charge ‘N’ Race Speedway.