REAL ESTATE

Rue21 opens 500th store

BY CSA STAFF

Warrendale, Pa. — Apparel retailer Rue21 announced the opening of its 500th etc! store, in Franklin Mills, Pa. The etc! format was introduced five years ago to highlight the company’s expanded accessories category, and has since been incorporated into all new Rue21 stores and remodels.

The five categories of etc! — footwear, fragrance/beauty, accessories, jewelry, and the area brand of intimate apparel and sleepwear — are merchandised together in approximately 1,000 sq. ft. within Rue21 stores and have been important in driving incremental sales.

Bob Fisch, president and CEO, stated: "The etc! business continues to be an important part of our overall strategy as we push to increase our market share. As we open and convert stores to this format, we drive square footage and high-margin incremental sales, and also make our stores even more of a destination for our target demographic.”

The company is on target to open 110 new stores and convert approximately 35 existing stores to the etc! format in 2011.

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Dept. stores report April sales growth

BY CSA STAFF

NEW YORK — Consumers took advantage of Easter promotions and helped drive up sales at leading U.S. department stores.

Macy’s Inc. reported total sales of $1.924 billion forthe four weeks ended April 30, an increase of 10.9%compared with total sales of $1.735 billion in the four weeks ended May1. The company’s same-store sales were up 10.8%, beating Macy’s guidance for comps to be up between 8% and 9%.

"April was another strong month for our company. Macy’s andBloomingdale’s both performed well in stores and online. As a result, wealso exceeded our own aggressive expectations for the combinedMarch-April period and for the first quarter," said Terry Lundgren, chairman, president and CEO of Macy’s Inc.

Kohl’s reported that its sales for the month of April were up 12.1% to $1.3 billion from $1.1 billion last year. The company’s same-store sales increased 10.2%.

Kevin Mansell, Kohl’s chairman, president and CEO, commented, “From a line of business perspective, accessories, home and children’s outperformed the company average for the month. The Southeast and West regions reported the strongest comparable sales for the month.”

Kohl’s said it expects its first quarter earnings to be toward the high end of its previous guidance of 68 cents to 73 cents per diluted share.

JCPenney said its net sales were up 3.4% to $1.3 billion for the month of April from $1.2 billion last year. The company’s same-store sales were up 6.4%.

According to the company, JCPenney’s strongest sales were in women’s and children’s apparel, and the Southeast was the top performing region.

Geographically, the southeast was the top performing region of the country. Throughout the month, sales and traffic in several regions were impacted by unseasonable and adverse weather trends.

JCPenney said it now expects first-quarter earnings to be approximately 24 cents per share. The company had previously expected earnings to be in the range of 18 cents to 23 cents per share.

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Year of the Rabbit

BY CSA STAFF

I’m not much of a follower of astrology and the signs of the zodiac, but I do know that 2011 is the Year of the Rabbit on the Chinese calendar.

It seems somehow fortuitous that speed and agility define a year that is all about economic recovery. And retail is moving forward at a rate that, while not exactly hare-like, is at least faster than the proverbial tortoise.

A report released in April jointly by the International Council of Shopping Centers and PNC Real Estate Research, entitled “U.S. Retail Real Estate Supply Conditions,” tracked and analyzed announced store closings and GLA for the fourth quarter of 2010. I realize at first blush that a report about contraction might not illustrate forward progress, but it suggests that retailers were focused on right-sizing in 2010. And a streamlined ship can travel at a much faster clip than a tug boat hauling excess cargo.

According to the report, Blockbuster and Talbots led announced store reductions in the final quarter of 2010, accounting for 41% of total store closings with 182 and 100 units to be shuttered, respectively. A.J. Wright, a division of TJX Cos., announced 71 store closings in 4Q, Duckwall-ALCO closed 44, regional furnishings player Lack’s closed 36, Borders closed 17 stores, and discount department store chain Loehmann’s announced 15 closings and declared bankruptcy.

During the fourth quarter, some 700 retailers and restaurants announced expected closings, consisting of approximately 10.4 million sq. ft. and representing 0.07% of the total inventory of retail space within the United States. However, the report emphasized that the improving economy helped to spark stronger profitability in the retail sector as a whole — and that occupancy is beginning to trend higher as more retailers are cautiously returning to expansion.

Chain Store Age’s April/May issue — with the annual real estate section geared toward the ICSC’s RECon 2011 show in Las Vegas held May 22 to 25 — underscores the idea that talk of expansion has supplanted contraction discussions in retailer corporate staff meetings. In our development coverage, beginning on page 34, we highlight the top 12 developments to open in 2010, among them the massive Peninsula Town Center development in Hampton, Va. The developers of Peninsula Town Center — as did all of the shopping center companies interviewed for the story — talked about successful leasing in a recovering economy.

“We opened Peninsula Town Center in the most challenging retail environment in our lifetime, with the two highest-volume department stores in the metroplex, over 70 specialty stores and 13 restaurants and a movie theater,” said Anne Mastin, executive VP leasing for Steiner, codeveloper on the project. “This was an amazing accomplishment in light of the economic climate of 2010.”

There is good reason to be hopeful that next year will show even more progress. For fun, I checked the Chinese calendar: 2012 is the year of the Dragon. I like the sound of that.

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