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On Spec

BY CSA STAFF

Energy Management

Sixteen stores operated by Hannaford Bros., Scarborough, Maine, have received Energy Star designations from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for demonstrating superior energy performance. The majority of the locations use 40% less energy than similar buildings with average energy performance, according to the EPA. Hannaford cut consumption via such tactics as using more efficient lighting, including T8 fluorescent lamps, skylights and LEDs, and by improving efficiency in refrigeration systems.

Fixtures

idX Corp., St. Louis, has launched idX London. The new branch is a joint venture between idX and its U.K. fixture-manufacturing partner, Leicester-based Clements Retail Innovations.

Lighting

Nature’s Lighting, Park City, Utah, has changed its name to Ciralight. The company provides advanced daylighting systems.

Construction

Richter + Ratner has moved to 1370 Broadway, New York, N.Y.

Change in Venue

The U.S. Green Building Council’s Greenbuild International Conference and Expo is moving to Chicago for its 2007 show, which will be held Nov. 7-9, at McCormick Place (www.greenbuildexpo.org).

Fixture Wins Top Honors

A dramatic fixture grouping of an ebony table and mirror-tiled showcase at Lily Simon, a high-end fashion retailer in Montreal, took top honors as Fixture of the Year in the 2007 National Association of Store Fixture Manufacturers Retail Design Awards.

The table, 19-ft. long and 2-ft.-6-in. wide, meanders up the steps and cuts across the space, whose minimalist design provides an ultra-modern atmosphere. The table leads shoppers to a showcase where jewelry and accessories are displayed under sparkling glass.

Efforts to Ban Incandescents on the Rise

A coalition that includes Philips Lighting, energy specialists and environmentalists are pressing for efficiency standards at the local, state and federal levels that would phase out incandescent lamps and replace them with compact fluorescents, LEDs, halogen devices and other efficient technologies.

The members of the coalition have committed to seek a “market phase-out” of incandescent lamps by 2016. The members say that a complete phase-out would save businesses and consumers $18 billion annually on electricity bills and substantially reduce mercury emissions from coal plants.

The coalition will also advocate for wider use of higher-efficiency fluorescent lighting in commercial buildings and more energy-efficient street lighting systems. To back up these incentives, it will support performance standards that work along with market forces to move the U.S. lighting market away from inefficient products and towards adoption of these and other energy-efficient alternatives.

“The Alliance to Save Energy is pleased to be part of this new coalition committed to advocating for public policies to speed the phase-out of inefficient lighting products by 2016,” said Kateri Callahan, president, Alliance to Save Energy. “The economic, environmental and national security benefits of such a market transformation include lower energy costs for consumers and businesses, less air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, and extension of our nation’s limited energy supplies.”

The Australian government recently announced it would seek to ban incandescent bulbs. And in California, a bellwether state for energy and environmental matters, an assemblyman has introduced a bill that would ban the sale of general-source incandescent lamps in the state by 2012. Connecticut and Rhode Island are also considering banning incandescents.

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Weekly Retail Fix

BY CSA STAFF

THE NEWS: SAM’S REALIGNS STORE-LEVEL MANAGEMENT

BENTONVILLE, ARK. Sam’s Club is changing the management structure in its stores. In the realignment, approximately 250 positions will be eliminated, Wal-Mart Stores announced last week. The company said it’s replacing five lower level management positions at each Sam’s Club location with three new higher level and higher paying assistant manager positions.

“This is not a cost cutting effort. We expect a slight increase in payroll upon completion of this change,” said Sharon Orlopp, senior vp of Sam’s people division.

THE FIX: Differentiation would better help Sam’s

Since Sam’s decided that its refocus on the business customer was too narrow, it has sought to find ways to make its clubs more attractive to primary shoppers, i.e., women. And that’s a pretty tough row to hoe, as Costco has done a pretty good job at satisfying the club customer in general and BJ’s has been going after female shoppers for several years now, with some success.

Having fewer managers with more direct responsibility could create a tighter knit club-level management and shorten lines of responsibility and accountability. Yet, without differentiating the offering, execution isn’t going to overcome all of Sam’s challenges.

That being said, a store-level management realignment might be overlooked at other retailers, but, this being Wal-Mart, everyone has to make a big deal about it. But that’s the price you pay as the big guy on the block.

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THE NEWS: TOYS ‘R’ US EARNINGS GAIN 40.1%

WAYNE, N.J. Toys “R” Us today posted net earnings of $199 million for its critical fourth quarter, which meant it turned a profit for the fiscal year ended Feb. 3. But special charges and gains had an impact on its numbers.

Sales for the previous fiscal annum were $142 million, the difference translating into a net earnings increase of 40.1% year over year. For the last fiscal year, Toys “R” Us posted net earnings of $85 million versus a net loss of $384 million for the previous period.

Operating earnings in the fiscal 2006 fourth quarter gained 53.1% to $571 million versus $373 million for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2005. For the last fiscal year, operating earnings were $649 million versus an operating loss of $142 million for the previous period.

THE FIX: Improved shopper experience ups comps

Of course, any observer has to take into consideration special financial circumstances. Fiscal 2006 operating earnings were positively impacted by $96 million from gains on property sales, slightly offset by restructuring and other charges. In fiscal 2005, operating earnings were negatively impacted by $410 million in costs relating to the merger of the company, as well as $58 million of costs and charges relating to contract settlement fees, restructuring and other charges.

Still, sales were trending up at last year’s end. Net sales gained 15.8% to $5.7 billion. In the full fiscal year, net sales advanced to $13 billion, up 15.2%.

Comparable-store sales for the Toys “R” Us’ U.S. division gained 0.6% in fiscal 2006, and that represents the division’s first comps increase in six years. Comps at Babies “R” Us were up 4.8% and those at Toys “R” Us international were up 2.6% for the fiscal year.

Jerry Storch, chairman and ceo of Toys “R” Us, said the company is “pleased with the strides we made in fiscal 2006 to improve at all levels of the organization and reposition the company for profitable growth over the long term.”

He said the company’s new management team has been focusing on executing a strategy that would turn the retailer into a global toy and baby products authority.

“This translated into higher overall sales, positive comparable-store sales, improved gross margins and strong operating earnings growth for the 2006 fiscal year,” Storch asserted. “The key to our strategy has been improving the customer shopping experience in our stores. We are accomplishing this by delivering a more compelling merchandise selection, better service and a cleaner and more comfortable shopping environment.”

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