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100 to 120 Kmart, full-line Sears stores to close

BY Katherine Field Boccaccio

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Kmart’s parent company delivered some not-so-happy holiday news last week.

Sears Holdings said last Tuesday that it will close between 100 and 120 underperforming Kmart and Sears stores, following dismal holiday sales results for the brands.

The company said it has not yet identified which stores will be shuttered, but said that the closures are part of an overall plan to shift its focus from shoring up underperformers to concentrating its efforts on stronger stores.

"Given our performance and the difficult economic environment, especially for big-ticket items, we intend to implement a series of actions to reduce ongoing expenses, adjust our asset base, and accelerate the transformation of our business model," Sears Holdings CEO Louis D’Ambrosio said. "These actions will better enable us to focus our investments on serving our customers."

Sears said that the store closings will generate $140 to $170 million in cash from inventory sales. It anticipates additional proceeds from the sale or sublease of real estate holdings.

The retailer had announced numerous closings this year, but this is the largest group of closings to date.

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Report: Consumers spent $44 billion on holiday 2011

BY Katherine Field Boccaccio

CHICAGO — Thanks to a last-minute shopping rush, Christmas 2011 likely will outpace its prior-year counterpart. According to a report released Wednesday by ShopperTrak, consumers spent approximately $44 billion in retail sales for the week ended Dec. 24, a 37.8% increase over the previous week and a 14.8% gain over the same week last year.

Foot traffic also was high, increasing 32.4% from the previous week.

The last-minute sales increase ensured this December will outpace December 2010. Month-to-date figures are up 4.7% over December 2010.

“Holiday shopping reached a climax last week,” ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin said. “With good weather in most of the country and the season coming to a close, procrastinators and bargain hunters hit the stores and gave retailers the sales lift they needed to outpace last year.”

According to ShopperTrak, a late holiday shopping surge is not uncommon. Last year, the 10 days before Christmas accounted for 24.4% of total retail sales in the entire holiday shopping season of November and December.

“Increased foot-traffic does not always translate into sales,” Martin said. “Retailers who monitored their foot-traffic hourly and adjusted inventory and staffing to convert shoppers into buyers were the most successful last week.”

As expected, shoppers came out in full force on the day after Christmas because it fell on a Monday for the first time in six years. The day ranked fourth in foot traffic and sales for the entire holiday season, behind Black Friday, Nov. 26, Friday, Dec. 23 and Super Saturday, Dec. 17. Foot traffic increased 25.9% over the same day last year and consumers spent $7.1 billion on Dec. 26 in retail sales, an increase of 25.5% over the same day last year.

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Topco president and CEO to retire

BY Allison Cerra

SKOKIE, Ill. — Topco, a member-owned cooperative serving the food industry, announced the retirement of president and CEO Steven Lauer.

Lauer, who joined the cooperative in 1993, initially served as CFO before being promoted to president and CEO in 1999. Under his leadership, Topco’s membership grew to 51 retail, wholesale and foodservice member-owners.

Stepping in as interim president and CEO is Randall Skoda, who has served as Topco’s EVP since 2007 and is responsible for overseeing Topco’s program management, product and brand development, innovation and not-for-resale groups, Topco said.

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