FINANCE

Retail sales inch up 0.2% in June, dragged down by drop in auto sales

BY Marianne Wilson

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New York — U.S. retail sales inched up 0.2% in June, after an upwardly revised 0.5% rise in May, the Commerce Department said Tuesday.

While the increase was less than expected, due mainly to an unexpected decline in auto sales, sales rose in nine of 13 major retail categories. Removing automobiles, gasoline, building materials and food service sales, retail sales were up a solid 0.6% in June.

Sales at apparel and accessories stores increased 0.8%. Sales at general merchandise stores rose 1.1%. Online and catalog retailers posted a 0.9% increase in June.

Sales at sporting goods shops rose 0.6% and sales at electronics and appliances stores gained 0.1%

But sales at building materials and garden equipment suppliers fell 1.0%.

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FINANCE

Aaron’s to close 44 stores in Q3

BY Dan Berthiaume

Atlanta – Aaron’s Inc. on Tuesday said it plans to close 44 underperforming stores in the third quarter of fiscal 2014 and continue other cost-reduction initiatives in response to disappointing core business performance. The electronics, furniture and appliances rentals retailer also revised its earnings guidance downward for the second quarter.

The company praised the performance of its recently purchased Progressive Finance unit.

“With that said, we are disappointed with our core business results and are taking aggressive action to respond to the challenging economic environment and the evolving industry in which we operate,” said Ronald W. Allen, CEO, Aaron’s. “We recently undertook a comprehensive and detailed review of opportunities for shareholder value creation and continue to believe that by implementing targeted strategies, we can grow the core business.”

Aaron’s currently has more than 2,130 company-operated and franchised stores in 48 states and Canada.

Aaron’s said it is focusing on five key areas to position the company for long-term growth and profitability. These include same-store revenue growth, the online platform, cost efficiency to recapture margin, targeted new store growth, and the franchisee network.

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OPERATIONS

Splunk platform helps drive online revenue at John Lewis

BY Marianne Wilson

San Francisco — Splunk Inc. announced that British retailer John Lewis is using Splunk Enterprise to deliver operational and customer insight across the retailer’s website.

Originally selected to search and alert on John Lewis’ IT infrastructure, Splunk Enterprise is now also used for digital intelligence through real-time analysis of data from e-commerce platforms to better understand purchasing trends, improve customer experience and drive higher conversion rates.

“Within weeks of implementing Splunk software, we saw a substantial return on investment,” said Aleem Cummins, release manager & Splunk lead, John Lewis. “We discovered we were losing customers with a certain version of a web browser at checkout. Insights from Splunk Enterprise immediately identified and helped to resolve the problem and protect our revenues. We have also started to analyze customer journeys on the John Lewis website, revealing new insight into how customer experience can be made even better. At John Lewis, customer experience is more than just words; it’s a belief, and Splunk has helped us to better understand, and improve, the experience we offer our customers.”

The John Lewis team uses the intelligence Splunk Enterprise provides to make key business decisions, from the IT, web and marketing departments to senior stakeholders of johnlewis.com. Over the key Christmas clearance in 2013, Splunk Enterprise made a positive contribution to John Lewis delivering the best online performance in company history. John Lewis online sales grew more than 23% over the holiday period, and Splunk Enterprise is credited with helping the organization make important operational and marketing decisions, such as when to promote certain items or campaigns.

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