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Urban shrink?

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Chain Store Age editor-in-chief Marianne Wilson and I go to great lengths to report new store openings on Chainstoreage.com. We pore through convoluted retail financial statements – sometimes twice daily – to uncover news that a chain has its sights set on even a little net new store growth for the year ahead.

I reported earlier today that Urban Outfitters, despite a challenging fourth quarter that saw profits cut nearly in half from the year before, was planning as many as 60 new stores in fiscal 2013.

That’s good news for all of our real estate readers, as well as our design and construction folks, who look for indications of forward momentum.

But at least one analyst is openly questioning Urban Outfitters’ expansion plans, going so far as to ask if opening more stores is altogether the wrong move for the operator of Anthropologie, Free People and Urban Outfitters banners.

Brean Murray Carrett retail analyst Eric Beder wrote in a note to investors that “while Urban bulls will point to better inventories and more full price selling [in this quarter] as compared to the disaster [last quarter], we believe the fashion looks remain weak and that near-term results will remain under pressure.”

He challenged Urban’s contention that more stores will lead to more sales by suggesting that the dollars haven’t followed the new shops.

Beder accuses last year’s 57 openings as a desperate play to grow, as well as a way to portray a turnaround story.

What’s a chain to do? Last year’s right-sizing buzz seems to be giving way to a more progressive strategic-growth mantra. If Urban Outfitters were to twiddle its thumbs during 2013, direct competitors like American Eagle, Abercrombie & Fitch, Gap and Aeropostale would likely continue to gain market share on the hipster.

Thoughts? Should Urban Outfitters continue to plot growth, or stand still and regain a more solid footing? Feel free to leave a comment below.


Past Blog Entries by Katherine Field Boccaccio

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Riverchase Galleria, Hoover, Ala.

BY CSA STAFF

Alabama’s number-one shopping destination can now say that it is not only getting a new Von Maur department store, but also a full-scale renovation.

General Growth Properties and Jim Wilson & Associates’ Riverchase Galleria, located in Hoover, Ala., has unveiled a massive redevelopment project that will include expansive updates, modernization, and enhancement of both the interior and the exterior of the property.

Scheduled to begin in 2012 and be completed in 2013, other improvements include: relocation and upgrade of Center Court elevators to enhance sight-lines and provide better customer service; installation of aesthetic architectural elements, including pendant fixtures and “sails” with accent lighting throughout Center Court; upgrading and modernizing mall entrances and pedestrian bridge entrances; parking deck improvements; and the renovation and expansion of Center Court public restrooms. New landscaping and way-finding signage will be indigenous and complementary of the surrounding Riverchase and Hoover communities.

“GGP is proud of the reputation Riverchase Galleria has in Hoover and the entire state of Alabama,” said Tom Martin, senior general manager, Riverchase Galleria. “The proposed redevelopment and refresh of the center is critical to the success of the center. With the addition of Von Maur, the reputation and popularity of the Galleria is only further solidified as the premier shopping, dining and entertainment destination.”

Alabama’s first Von Maur will open to Riverchase Galleria’s new refreshed look in 2013. The 187,000-sq.-ft. store is located in the eight-story-high glass atrium at center court under the world’s largest skylight. It will be the Galleria’s fifth department store, joining Macy’s, Sears, J.C. Penney and Belk. Von Maur will join other soon-to-open retailers, such as Jared Jewelry and Earth Fare.

Riverchase Galleria is a joint venture between General Growth Properties and Jim Wilson & Associates. The property opened in February 1986 and recently celebrated its 26th anniversary.


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Walmart gives new digital life to DVDs

BY CSA STAFF

LOS ANGELES — Movie lovers can now access their favorite DVDs/Blu-ray films on their Internet-connected devices, thanks to a new program from Walmart and its streaming video service, Vudu.

Starting April 16 in more than 3,500 stores, Walmart customers will be able to bring their DVD and Blu-ray collections to Walmart and receive digital access to their favorite titles from partnering studios including Paramount, Sony, Fox, Universal and Warner Bros. An equal conversion for standard DVDs and Blu-ray discs will be $2. Standard DVDs can be upgraded to High-Def (HD) for $5.

“Walmart is helping America get access to their DVD library,” said John Aden, EVP for general merchandising Walmart U.S. “Walmart entertainment’s new disc-to-digital service will allow our customers to reconnect with the movies they already own on a variety of new devices, while preserving the investments they’ve made in disc purchases over the years. We believe this revolutionary in-store service will unlock new value for already-owned DVDs, and will encourage consumers to continue building physical and digital movie libraries in the future.”

The participating studios were also excited about the opportunity

“Consumers today want new and flexible ways to enjoy movies and Walmart’s disc-to-digital program will be another important avenue to introduce Paramount movies on this new platform to a broader, more comprehensive audience,” said Dennis Maguire, president Worldwide Home Media Distribution, Paramount Pictures. “The unmatched reach of Walmart – which serves over 140 million consumers every week – means we can quickly grow awareness for this unique technology throughout every region across the country.”

To watch a video from Walmart explaining the service, click here.

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