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Tile Shop enters new market

BY Marianne Wilson

The Tile Shop is expanding, in new markets and existing ones.

The specialty retailer opened its first location in Washington, D.C., a 10,400-sq.-ft. store in the historic neighborhood of Tenleytown.

The Tile Shop also opened its twelfth location in the Chicago metro area, in Schererville, Indiana.

Tile Shop stores feature more than 4,000 high-quality tile designs. Shoppers may also utilize the on-site design and education center featuring the new digital design tool that helps customers choose their own custom layouts and visualize how a tile project will look upon completion by exploring tile, trim and grout options – well before a purchase is made or an installation begins.

The Tile Shop currently operates 123 stores in 31 states.

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Walgreens in pilot of vision care center

BY Michael Johnson

Walgreens Boots Alliance is piloting a retail vision care center within the Walgreens flagship in the Wrigley Building in Chicago, the company recently revealed, taking what has been a successful page out of its U.K.-based Boots Pharmacy division and applying that strategy to the U.S. market.

"Walgreens believes vision care, combining health and fashion, has potential as an expanded offering as it strives to be America’s most-loved pharmacy-led health, well-being and beauty retailer," Walgreens spokesman Jim Graham told Drug Store News, a sister publication of Chain Store Age. "At present we are piloting just one store and will use that experience to determine the timing and location of any similar, potential future store enhancements."

In the United Kingdom, Boots actually is one of the leaders in the optical market with 636 practices, Walgreens Boots Alliance reported, of which 182 operate on a franchise basis. Approximately 30% of these optical practices are located in Boots stores with the balance being standalone optical practices.

Walgreens may be taking a similar approach in Chicago, as the services at Walgreens Optical are being provided by an independently owned company whose licensed healthcare professionals are not employed by Walgreens.

The new Walgreens Optical offers comprehensive eye exams from fully-licensed optometrists and opticians, advanced lenses from leading companies and a full selection of frames and price points.

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Iconix Brand unloads Sharper Image

BY Marianne Wilson

Iconix Brand Group has sold the rights to the Sharper Image brand and related intellectual property assets to the company that recently bought FAO Schwarz from Toys “R” Us.

Iconix sold Sharper Image to ThreeSixty Group, which manufactures and distributes toys and other consumer products to stores nationwide, for $100 million in cash. ThreeSixty is also Sharper Image’s largest licensee.

Sharper Image filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2008 and subsequently closed its stores nationwide. It continued to sell online and through other retailers. In 2011, Sharper Image’s brand and intellectual property assets were acquired by Iconix for $65.6 million in cash.

"Sharper Image is a strong and widely recognized brand, however, consistent with the vision we outlined during our recent investor day, Sharper Image did not fit into our go-forward strategy,” said John Haugh, CEO of Iconix. “After careful consideration, we determined that we could better leverage our resources and generate greater returns by focusing on other areas of the business.”

Haugh said the sale generates a significant return on Iconix’s investment, and allows the company to make “progress on de-levering the balance sheet, which is a top priority.”

Sharper Image is the second brand that Iconix sold this year. In March, the company sold Badgley Mischka.

Iconix owns, licenses and markets a portfolio of consumer brands including Candie’s, Joe Boxer, Rampage, Mossimo, Danskin, London Fog and Fieldcrest and many others.

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