OPERATIONS

Report: Target to sell off Zellers’ Rx business

BY Marianne Wilson

New York City — Target Corp. will sell off Zellers’ prescription customer files to other companies and start its own business from scratch once it launches Target in Canada, according to reports in The Globe and Mail.

While Zellers pharmacies are money-makers, keeping them open while Target closes the stores for remodeling would be costly and complicated, according to the report.

The potential suitors for the files are likely to include Shoppers Drug Mart Corp. and Katz Group Canada Ltd., the report said.

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FINANCE

Ann Taylor profit beats Street; same-store sales up 5.5%

BY Marianne Wilson

New York City — Ann Inc., formerly known as Ann Taylor, reported a 33.4% rise in quarterly net income to $32.3 million, beating analysts’ estimates.

The company’s performance was boosted by strong demand for its Loft brand, where same-store sales rose 7.9%. Same-store sales rose 2.5% at Ann Taylor. Comp-sales were up 45.8% in the Ann Taylor e-commerce channel and 1.8% in the Ann Taylor Factory channel. Total same-store sales were up 5.5%.

"Compelling product and effective marketing drove significantly higher sales and profitability across all Loft channels," said CEO Kay Krill said in a statement

Total net sales for the third quarter of fiscal 2011, ended Oct. 29, were $564.0 million, compared with net sales of $505.3 million in the year-ago period.

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News

No lump of coal here: 2% comp is Q4 possibility

BY CSA STAFF

Let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. That seems to be the message implied in Walmart’s guidance for fourth-quarter same-store sales in a range of flat to up 2%. The company’s comps expectations follow a third-quarter increase of 1.3% that ended a two-year string of negative results, but appear rather muted against the backdrop of talk about the company’s gathering momentum, the effectiveness of strategies and solid positioning for the holidays.

As Walmart U.S. president and CEO Bill Simon noted after the release of third quarter results earlier this week, Walmart has the assortment customers are looking for in store and online, the inventory they need and prices that can’t be beat.

“We’ve worked diligently throughout the year on our assortment and availability initiatives,” Simon said. “In addition, we’ve worked hard on our communication to customers. We’ve also stepped up our marketing campaign across multiple media platforms this holiday. Customers will see and hear Walmart everywhere this holiday season. We’ve bought a strong share of voice nationally and in individual key markets.”

Such programs as layaway, which is said to be exceeding expectations, and a 0% financing offer on the Walmart credit card purchases are designed to make holiday shopping easier and more attractive.

“Our ad match and holiday price guarantee will leave no doubt that Walmart is the clear price leader this holiday season,” Simon said.

Of course, competitors are sounding a similar pricing message and in some cases delivering values superior to Walmart’s every day low price, which has impacted traffic as shoppers don’t always apply the same logic in terms of evaluating price on a basket of items as Walmart would like. Notwithstanding the company’s price-match guarantee, competitors have been able to lure deal-oriented shoppers away with sharp pricing on key items, more convenient locations or a combination of both.

Walmart’s traffic trends have begun to improve, according to Simon, although they were still negative in the third quarter, but improved sequentially from the second quarter. If the momentum in traffic can be maintained, it will go a long way toward improving sales because to date top-line growth has been driven by selling more stuff to existing customers whose resources are limited. To drive more shoppers to its store during the holidays Walmart marketing is in high gear for Thanksgiving weekend.

“We’re aggressively going after the business this season, starting even before Black Friday. We’ve been open on Thanksgiving Day for several years now. This year, at 10 p.m., we kick off the event with outstanding prices in toys, home and apparel. Our electronics items follow at midnight,” Simon said. “And, we’ll have rollback prices throughout the store all day on Black Friday. We’re reaching out to customers on social media. Store-specific maps on Facebook will help our customers plan their shopping trip. There will be no doubt that Walmart is ready for the holiday season.”

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