This is what the denouement looks like.

At the Sears store in the Freehold Raceway Mall in New Jersey, the parking lot level floor Ensurewas almost entirely denuded of merchandise. Huge chunks of space sat idle behind blue partitions. The barriers concealed pallets bearing unwrapped fixtures and stacks of unopened boxes of indeterminate provenance.

There was a handsome and sizable run of fresh shelving in place for a shoe department. It was as-yet unstocked and it will not be filled with Sears products.

Signs near the entry points read: “Pardon our dust,” and “We’re open to serve you during our remodel.” One directed at customers who might have stopped by in search of Lands’ End merchandise advised: “We will be leaving this location soon.”

Two days before my visit, Sears Holdings had announced that the Freehold store was one of nine being folded into a new REIT under a joint venture with The Macerich Company, a real estate investment trust focused on regional malls throughout the United States. Space in some of those stores might wind up getting leased out to other retailers, according to the company statement.

Apparently, they got a head start on the project in Freehold.

Macerich put $150 million in cash into the JV, which has been distributed to Sears Holdings. This is the latest in a series of moves by the parent company of Sears and Kmart to squeeze cash from its real estate. A few weeks earlier, Sears Holdings formed a REIT involving 254 of the retailer’s properties in order to generate $2.5 billion.

And it began renting out its store space to other retailers last year. UK discount fashion retailer Primark this year will roll into at least seven locations — including Freehold, where it is reportedly taking more than 66,000 square feet. Other Sears lessees around the country include Dick’s Sporting Goods (perhaps that’s what all those shoe racks are for in the Freehold unit?), and Sears Holdings chairman Eddie Lampert has suggested additional tenants may include Whole Foods, Nordstrom Rack and West Elm.

As for Sears itself? At Freehold, everything looks to be moving into the underground floor. During my visit (if you want visuals, see the May 3 entry on our Facebook page), some sections of the home department were thinly stocked, to put it kindly. One assumes that’s in preparation for an entire overhaul of the floor as Sears relocates some of the categories that had been carried in the leased space.

Meanwhile, upstairs a lonely jewelry counter remained intact, although merchandise was being cleared out at 75% off. There were a few racks of denims and some shirts along with a single rack of women’s bras. Near the check-out counter, curiously, sat a small stand of candy. A throw-away space filler or a sign of things to come? Who can say.

This we do know. Between the leases and the store closings, one of the country’s oldest retailers is slowly fading away. This is not the final chapter, but it sure feels like the end of the story is coming into view.

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1888 Mills to expand

Hollander_Live_ComfortablyGriffin, Ga. – 1888 Mills has acquired a 500,000-sq.-ft. facility located a mile from its towel mill here, which it plans to use as part of its expansion strategy.
The textiles manufacturer will relocate its manufacturing and distribution to the space by the end of this year.
The facility was previously occupied by Nacom, a company that made injection molding and wire harnessing for automobiles at the plant.
“It is with the continued support of our most valued customers that we are able to implement our plans to grow our USA footprint,” said Jonathan Simon, ceo of 1888 Mills.

1888’s towel operation is one of the beneficiaries of Walmart’s commitment to source more U.S.-made products over the coming five years. The company also operates mills in Pakistan, Bangladesh and Ghana, with offices in Shanghai and the UK.

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Which retailers were among the best and worst ceos of 2013?

Which retailers were among the best and worst ceos of 2013New York – Dartmouth professor Sydney Finkelstein is out with his annual list of the five worst ceos of the year, and for the first time has included a selection of the country’s five best chief executives as well.
It will probably come as no surprise to retail-watchers that ex-JCPenney ceo Ron Johnson made the worst list. Finkelstein, professor of management and an associate dean at Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business, called Johnson’s unsuccessful attempt to replicate the Apple Stores strategy in a middle-market retail chain “nothing short of disastrous.”
Sears Holdings chairman and ceo Eddie Lampert also landed on the worst list for expending his energies on stock buy-backs rather than turning around the merchandising operation.
Amazon ceo Jeff Bezos was named the best ceo in the country for 2013. “In other hands, Amazon might seem to be a company with an identity crisis-is it UPS? A library? A warehouse? All of those things?-but under Bezos it has become one of the coolest, sexiest brands of all time,” said Finkelstein.
To see the complete list, along with Finkelstein’s video commentaries on each of the selections, click here.

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Survey suggests slight rise in home goods holiday buys

33 million will shop on Thanksgiving Day

Survey suggests slight rise in home goods holiday buysPhiladelphiaPennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust, a real estate investment trust specializing differentiated retail shopping malls, announced the results of a study that examines holiday spending plans among more than 2,000 U.S. adults.
According to the PREIT survey, 85% of Americans plan to increase or maintain their overall holiday gift spending on apparel, electronics, home goods and gift cards this year. Of those who plan to spend more, 15% plan to increase spending on electronics, 14% plan to purchase more gift cards, 13% will spend more on apparel and 10% will spend more on home goods.
Of those who plan to spend less on apparel/electronics/home goods/gift cards this holiday season, 49% say they have less income this year than last. Forty-three percent want to go into less debt. Thirty-eight percent are concerned about higher retail prices and 12% are worried about job security. Another 19% fear government uncertainty will harm the economy overall and 10% are worried the government might shut down again.
Focusing on the Thanksgiving-Black Friday weekend, which falls late this year, a preliminary National Retail Federation survey reveals that up to 140 million people plan to or will shop this Thursday through Sunday, a slight decrease from the 147 million who planned to do so at this time last year.
The NRF survey also revealed that nearly 33 million shoppers plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day. Of those who plan to shop on Thanksgiving Day this year, seven in 10 said they shopped online and in stores on Thanksgiving in 2012.
Black Friday will be the biggest day of the weekend: 69.1% plan to shop on Black Friday, or approximately 97 million shoppers. Additionally 43.8% will shop on Saturday (61 million) and 24.2% will shop on Sunday (34 million).
When it comes to keeping up with retailers’ holiday promotions, the classic advertising circular wins, with half of shoppers (49.1%) scouring newspapers for information about upcoming sales events. However, many people are still very much tuned into retailers’ digital news: 33.5% will look for special emails from retailers, 27% will follow retailers’ websites and 21.9% will visit coupon websites to look for deals.
The NRF 2013 holiday spending survey polled 6,201 consumers and was conducted for NRF by Prosper Insights & Analytics from Nov. 1-7, 2013. The consumer poll has a margin of error of plus or minus 1.3 percentage points. Preliminary survey results only compare to preliminary results released prior to Thanksgiving weekend in 2012. NRF will release actual shopping results on Sunday, Dec. 1 by 2:00 p.m. ET.
The PREIT survey was conducted online within the United States by Harris Interactive from Nov. 8-12, 2013 among 2,044 adults ages 18 and older.

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MSLO, eBay partner for new American Made Market

New York – Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia and eBay have joined forces to present the Martha Stewart American Made Market, exclusively on eBay, with the aim of supporting artisans and celebrating handmade goods.

Curated by Stewart and the staff at Martha Stewart Living magazine, the program will showcase products in categories such as crafts, food, garden, and more.

The Martha Stewart American Made Market on eBay is an extension of Martha Stewart’s American Made program, which this past fall marked its second anniversary.

Each week, the editors at Martha Stewart Living magazine will select a new assortment to place on eBay.

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Home a bright spot in Kohl’s lackluster 3Q

Home a bright spot in Kohl's lackluster 3QMenomonee Falls, Wis. – Bedding, rugs and pillows as well as luggage and electrics all drove home’s strength during the third quarter at Kohl’s, which otherwise produced a mixed bag of mostly soft results. Worse, Kohl’s is now projecting a sales decline for the fourth quarter.

Net income for the third quarter declined 18% to $177 million, or $.81 earnings per share. Sales edged up 1% to $4.4 billion versus $4.5 billion, and comparable stores sales dipped 1.6% compared to last year’s 1.1% comp gain.

E-commerce dulled in the quarter, increasing 15%, which is lower than Kohl’s historical growth rate, although the company said the pace of in line with expectations.

“We fully expect our e-commerce sales to accelerate in the fourth quarter, now that the re-platform is completed,” said Kevin Mansell, chairman, president and ceo.

As Kohl’s readies for the holiday season, Mansell said, the company has increased its marketing spending “and improved its impact and reach in order to drive higher traffic to our stores and on-line.”

Year to date results included: a 9% drop in net income to $555 million, or $2.51 diluted EPS; flat net sales of $12.9 billion; and a 0.9% comp decline, essentially on par with the year ago period.
Kohl’s has increased its store count this year to 1,158 units in 49 states, compared to 1,146 stores in the same time last year. The company opened three new stores during the third quarter and nine new stores during the first quarter of 2013. Additionally, Kohl’s has remodeled 30 stores this year.

For the fourth quarter, Kohl’s expects a sales decline of 2% to 4% and comparable store sales declines of 0% to 2%.

The company also lowered its annual earnings per share guidance to $4.08-$4.23 from $4.15-$4.35.

Kohl’s may be expecting a tough year ago. The company announced it will no longer issue guidance for quarterly periods and will only provide guidance on an annual basis.

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Las Vegas Market continues to evolve for winter show

Las Vegas Market continues to evolve for winter show1Las Vegas – A new date pattern and increased permanent and temporary showroom tenants are among improvements in place for the Jan. 26-30 Las Vegas Market, according to market organizers.
Winter market highlights will include a new Sunday through Thursday date pattern, increased breadth and depth of permanent showrooms and temporary exhibits, increased buyer attendance and more market amenities, educational programming and networking events, officials said.
“Las Vegas Market is experiencing growth that is unparalleled in today’s industry, and no other U.S. market offers access to such a broad range of furniture, home décor and gift resources that allows for such dynamic, cross-category shopping,” said Bob Maricich, CEO of International Market Centers, which owns and operates the Las Vegas Market. “This winter, we will build upon our success over the last six months, focusing not only on adding depth where we have delivered breadth of resources and attendance, but also increasing the aesthetics and market experience for all participants.”
The market will add to its furniture, home décor and gift offerings, targeting specialty tabletop and better home décor within the c-ONE cross-category showcase, better home décor and furnishings showrooms on B3, C3 and C4, and lifestyle and gift resources on C10.
Las Vegas Market continues to evolve for winter showTemporary exhibit offerings will expand again for the winter market, with addition of three new categories: Veranda, which spotlights outdoor and casual home furnishings; Gallery, a showcase of better home textiles resources, on C5; and Fashion, an assemblage of lifestyle-oriented merchandise on C11.
“Our aggressive buyer outreach program to expand our buyer base beyond home furnishings retailers and designers, launched last April, resulted in incredible gift and home décor attendance growth of 73% at the 2013 summer market, and this exponential growth in buyer traffic validates our strategy to reposition Las Vegas Market as the leading furniture, home décor and gift market in western U.S.,” said Maricich.
For the winter market, Las Vegas Market permanent showrooms will be open 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday, Jan. 26-29, and 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 30. Temporary exhibits will be open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Jan. 26-29 and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. on Jan. 30.

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