FINANCE

Report: Belk investing in store remodels

BY Marianne Wilson

New York City — Belk plans to remodel almost 30 stores this year as the department store company focuses on upgrading its existing space, the Charlotteobserver.com reported.

Last year, Belk spent about $70 million on store remodels and renovations. In 2012, the chain plans to increase that slightly, to $75 million, and then spend up to $130 million a year in 2013 and 2014, according to the report.

"Stores, after time, tend to get tired," said Ralph Pitts, Belk’s executive VP, said in the report. "It’s important for us to have a store the customer feels good about, that represents our brand."

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OPERATIONS

Amazon, Publix, Nordstrom, Costco among top performers in customer satisfaction

BY Staff Writer

Ann Arbor, Mich. — Publix Super Markets and Nordstrom are the highest ranked bricks-and-mortar retailers in a report released Tuesday by the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI). While supermarkets overall are up 1.3% to 76, Publix remains the grocer to beat, with a score of 84.

The best of the best among all retailers — traditional or online — is Amazon, with a score of 86, followed by online retailer Newegg at 85. Next in line are two more websites: Overstock at 83 and eBay at 81.

Other highly ranked traditional retailers include Nordstrom with an ACSI score of 84 (up 2% over last year), Costco with a score of 83 (+1%), J.C. Penney at 82 (+2%), Sam’s Club at 81 (+4%).

In the office supply sector, Staples and Office Depot both slip 2% to 79, while OfficeMax nearly catches them at 78, bouncing back 5% following a loss in 2010.

In home improvement, four years of steady gains bring The Home Depot to an all-time ACSI high of 78 (+4% for 2011), while Lowe’s gains 3% to 79.

TJX comes out of the holiday season at 78 (+3%), while Gap rises 4% to a record high of 77.

Health & personal care stores retreat for a second year and are the only retail category to lose customer satisfaction ground in 2011. Among the big three chains, Walgreen loses 3% and drops into a tie with an unchanged Rite Aid at 75. Customer satisfaction with CVS Caremark dwindles to a seven-year low of 73 (-1%), perhaps symptomatic of the company’s cost-cutting in the face of depressed sales, the report said.

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OPERATIONS

REI makes executive appointments

BY Marianne Wilson

Seattle — REI announced that Angela Owen has been named senior VP marketing and Lee Fromson has become senior VP merchandising.

As senior VP marketing, Owen will lead REI’s advertising, social and emerging media, online and direct marketing, and customer insights efforts. Owen, most recently senior VP merchandising, is replacing Tom Vogl, who left REI to join a technology firm.

Fromson, REI’s new senior VP merchandising, will oversee the company’s merchandising strategy, financial planning, inventory management strategies and vendor partnership development. Fromson joined REI in 2006, serving as VP of REI Private Brands, a division that accounts for a significant portion of the company’s sales.

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