FINANCE

Tesco annual profit up, losses continue at Fresh & Easy

BY CSA STAFF

New York City — Tesco PLC said Tuesday that its profit rose 14% to $4.3 billion in its most recent fiscal year ending Feb.26, while annual group sales increased 8% to almost $106 billion. However, losses continued to mount at its U.S. division, Fresh & Easy Neighborhood Market, which lost about $302.6 million. The division, which opened its first stores in 2007, now has 172 locations. It has yet to post a profit.

Tesco remains committed to Fresh & Easy, and said it is ramping up expansion, with about 50 stores on tap for this year.

Tesco attributed the worsening performance of Fresh & Easy to the integration of two suppliers and exchange-rate movements. However, the chain said it expects losses to “reduce sharply” in the current year as “strong growth in like-for-like sales continues. Tesco predicted losses would fall sharply in the current year and that the stores would break even by 2012-13.

"I’ve spent a lot of time with the Fresh & Easy team, and I remain confident that break-even toward the end of fiscal 2012/2013 remains a realistic objective," said Phillip Clarke, CEO, Tesco, in a conference call with analysts Tuesday.

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FINANCE

Francesca’s Holdings files IPO

BY CSA STAFF

New York City — Women’s fashion apparel retailer Francesca’s Holdings Corp. filed for up to an estimated $150 million to be raised in an initial public offering.

The company has about $41.4 million in proceeds from the offering earmarked toward repaying a senior secured credit facility, Dow Jones Newswires reported. Remaining funds may be used for opening new stores and growing its e-commerce business.

For the year ended Jan. 29, Francesca’s same-store sales climbed 15% on top of a 9.8% increase a year earlier.

The company, whose stores operate under the Francesca’s Collections banner, plans to list its stock on the Nasdaq Global Market under the symbol FRAN.

Francesca’s was acquired by New York-based private equity firm CCMP Capital Advisors last year. CCMP will continue to hold a controlling stake after the IPO, the report said.

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STORE SPACES

Rue21 taps PlayNetwork for customized programming

BY CSA STAFF

Redmond, Wash. — Apparel retailer Rue21 has selected PlayNetwork to produce and program in-store music and messaging for 672 Rue21 retail sites in 44 states.

The rue21 stores will be the first to feature PlayNetwork’s new MC550 media player, which which enables businesses to securely deliver immersive entertainment programming featuring music, video, digital signage and branded messaging content.

“The MC550 will allow us to continually enhance our in-store branding alongside the newest fashion trends, and supports our future power media initiatives in the 110 stores we’re planning to open in the coming year,” said Dione O’Dell, director of marketing at Rue21. “This ‘up-to-date’, current stream of music complements our speed-to-market merchandise strategy providing customers with a consistent shopping experience.”

Through a customized media program from PlayNetwork, driven by the user-friendly MC550 platform, Rue21 can build brand affinity through customizable or automatic dayparting and rich mixes of music, messaging and seasonal promotions.

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