OPERATIONS

Report: Google planning to open retail stores

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Google is planning to open freestanding retail stores in the United States, with the first flagship locations open in time for the 2013 holiday shopping season, according to a report by online site 9to5Google.

“Google feels right now that many potential customers need to get hands-on experience with its products before they are willing to purchase," the website reported.

According to the report, Google wants to give consumers the opportunity not only to test out its existing branded products, but also the chance to see close up its upcoming technology, such as Google Glasses.

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OPERATIONS

Best Buy to make holiday price-matching permanent year round

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Best Buy Co. is making its holiday price-matching guarantee a year-round program. Taking aim against the increasingly popular practice of “showrooming,” the consumer electronics chain will match online prices starting March 3.

Best Buy’s permanent price match has been expanded to cover almost all categories of merchandise. It does not cover phones purchased under contract.

Best Buy will also decrease its merchandise return policy from 30 days to 15 days

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FINANCE

Build-A-Bear Workshop widens Q4 loss; reports annual loss of $49 million

BY Marianne Wilson

St. Louis — Build-A-Bear Workshop, which is in the midst of a major turnaround initiative, reported a net loss of $36.5 million for its fourth quarter ended Dec. 29, compared with a net loss of $9 million during the prior-year quarter.

Total revenue for the quarter was $118.2 million, down 1% from the prior-year quarter.

For the full year, Build-A-Bear Workshop reported a net loss of $49.3 million in fiscal 2012, compared with a net loss of $17.1 million in fiscal 2011. The 2012 loss included a $33.7 million goodwill impairment in the fourth quarter.

The company reported total revenue of $380.9 million in 2012, down 3% from the previous year.

Founder and CEO Maxine Clark, who announced her retirement Jan. 31, said that the company was “disappointed” with its overall results. But she noted that in the fourth quarter the company increased same-store store sales in North America to show a marked improvement from the third quarter.”

“This increase was driven by the initial benefit of our brand building marketing campaigns, particularly in the U.S., and a return to traditional holiday product offerings,” Clark stated. “The U.K. remained challenging, which drove down our consolidated comparable store sales.

Clark also said: “We are in the midst of a multi-year turnaround initiative that includes closing an additional 50 to 60 stores by the end of 2014, updating our experience with a new design that builds our destination appeal and refocusing on brand messaging in our marketing programs.”

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