OPERATIONS

Second company pulling gift cards from New Jersey

BY Marianne Wilson

Atlanta — InComm, a leading third-party gift card provider, is following the example of American Express and is pulling out of New Jersey, effective June 30, rather than comply with changes in the unclaimed property law.

InComm supplies some 2,500 retail locations throughout New Jersey with cards for such brands as Visa, iTunes, Macy’s, Subway, Chili’s, and Lord & Taylor. InComm also announced the removal of its Vanilla Visa Gift Card and Vanilla MasterCard Gift Card products from the state.

The company’s actions are in response to the 2010 modifications to New Jersey’s unclaimed property law, which were designed to fill a budget shortfall. As a result, retailers selling gift cards will now have to capture a gift card purchaser’s personal information (which may include name, address and/or zip code) at the point-of-sale. This information will then be kept by card issuers and is reportable to the state. After two years of inactivity, New Jersey will automatically take the unspent money, even if the card has not expired.

“Because InComm is unable on behalf of its third-party gift card partners to ensure compliance with this law, we unfortunately have no choice but to remove all our gift cards and gift card destinations from retail locations in the state of New Jersey," said Brooks Smith, president and CEO of InComm.

Smith continued: “In addition to the compliance issues this law creates, we are very concerned that our New Jersey consumers will not have continued access to their gift card funds. States should not have the right to remove funds from an unexpired gift card.”

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OPERATIONS

J.C. Penney cuts 600 workers from headquarters staff

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — The ax has fallen at J.C. Penney Co. The company on Thursday laid off 600 workers from its corporate headquarters Plano, Texas, as its looks to streamline its business model amid a major reinvention of the business. The staff reduction, which equaled 13% to 14% of the headquarters staff, did not include any senior executives, according to The New York Times.

J.C. Penney said its new approach to pricing, promotion, merchandising and the customer experience requires a more competitive operational structure, with fewer layers of management. In a statement, CEO Ron Johnson said J.C. Penny was going to operate like a start-up.

“We are going to extend the reach and span of control of our very best talent,” he said. “We are going to be nimble, quick to learn, quicker to react and totally committed to realizing our vision to become America’s favorite store. Often in business, companies must streamline in order to leap forward. In our case, this has involved some very difficult decisions that have had an impact on many of our associates, but these changes are essential to help us achieve our long-term goals and, ultimately, grow our associate base as we grow our business."

The staff reduction is of J.C. Penney’s previously announced plan to reduce annual expenses by $900 million by the end of 2013. This includes $200 million in savings from its corporate headquarters, as well as $400 million in cost savings in store operations and $300 million in advertising expense savings. The changes are expected to reduce expenses to below 30% of sales by the end of 2013.

In addition, the retailer said it will close its customer call center in Pittsburgh, on July 1. The move will eliminate 300 jobs.

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OPERATIONS

Sears looks to expand signature brands outside stores

BY Marianne Wilson

Hoffman Estates, Ill. — Sears Holdings Corp. has appointed Leveraged Marketing Corp. of America as its exclusive global licensing agent as it looks to capitalize on, and ways to sell, its signature Kenmore, Craftsman and DieHard brands outside its own stores.

Sears said it will work closely with Leveraged Marketing to identify, evaluate and manage licensing opportunities around the world.

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