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Kmart up, Sears down in December

BY Mike Troy

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — A 2.3% same-store sales gain at Kmart was not enough to offset a 6% decline at Sears, resulting in an overall 1.7% decline for the combined companies’ domestic operations during the five-week December reporting period ended Jan. 1.

The December results were released as parent company Sears Holdings updated its earning guidance for the quarter ending Jan. 29, and indicated profits per share would exceed analysts’ consensus estimate of $3.09 and fall in a range of $3.39 to $4.12, with net income between $370 million and $450 million. For the fourth quarter to date, Kmart’s same-store sales were up 3.4%, while Sears was down by 5.3%. Last year, fourth-quarter profits were $3.74 per share, or $430 million.

The quarter-to-date gain at Kmart is attributable to the layaway program and strength in such categories as toys, home, sporting goods, apparel and footwear, according to the company. However, those increases partially were offset by declines in the food and consumables and pharmacy categories.

The sales difficulties seen at Sears are the same as those affecting other retailers, with significant exposure to the consumer electronics category and televisions in particular. Price deflation and moderating sales of existing flat-panel sets, coupled with a slow uptake of newer technologies, has hindered sales growth at Best Buy, HH Gregg and Target. Over half of the decline at Sears occurred in consumer electronics category, but appliances and tools also experiencing declines, according to the company. Conversely, Sears said footwear, jewelry and automotive categories produced comparable-store sales growth during the quarter-to-date period.

The company also updated its financial position and said it expects to end the year with approximately $1.1 billion in net cash balances and no outstanding borrowings under its $2 billion domestic credit facility. Sears Holdings plans to report its fourth-quarter and full-year results before the market opens on Feb. 24.

Improved profits during the fourth quarter will be offset by losses earlier in the year, which results in the company reporting full-year net income between $130 million and $210 million, or between $1.16 and $1.88 per share. Last year, net income totaled $235 million or $1.99 per share.

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Harris Teeter extends VIC program with e-coupons

BY Allison Cerra

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Building on its valued customer program, Harris Teeter is offering shoppers a way to link coupons to the program’s card.

Harris Teeter’s e-VIC program now gives customers the opportunity to link valuable manufacturer coupons directly to their VIC card. When e-VIC members receive their e-VIC e-mail, they can browse the list of e-VIC coupons any time, and link the coupons by clicking the “Save it” icon on any of the displayed coupons.

The retailer said it frequently will add coupons to the initiative, allowing customers to save every time they shop.

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Harvard Drug CEO retires, AmerisourceBergen executive steps in

BY Allison Cerra

DETROIT — A leading wholesale distributor of prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals announced the retirement of its CEO.

Harvard Drug said that Randolph "Randy" Friedman will retire after leading the business for 23 years. Terrance Haas, an industry veteran who most recently served as AmerisourceBergen president and board member of the Healthcare Distribution Management Association will be Harvard Drug’s new chief executive.

“We are thrilled to bring on Terry Haas as Harvard Drug’s new CEO,” Friedman said. “I am proud to have led Harvard Drug’s growth for the last 23 years and I am confident that our customers will continue to receive the same high-quality service that they have come to expect. With an industry veteran like Terry, Harvard Drug is well positioned to continue its strong growth and broaden its value to consumers of healthcare services across the country. I look forward to supporting Terry and the team in ensuring a smooth transition.”

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