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NRF names head of research division

BY DSN STAFF

WASHINGTON — The National Retail Federation has named Ellen Davis SVP and executive director of the NRF Foundation, the education and research arm of NRF.

In this role, Davis will be tasked with restructuring the NRF Foundation to more closely align with NRF’s strategic plan, taking the organization’s multimillion-dollar Retail Means Jobs campaign to the next level by emphasizing retail’s contributions to the economy and the diverse career opportunities available within the industry. She will also oversee a team managing NRF research projects, professional retail certification and training programs, initiatives to develop the next generation of retail leaders, and university partnerships. Additionally, Davis will continue to serve as a chief spokesperson for NRF on retail industry trends.

“With her deep understanding of retail and consumer trends, her love of our industry, and her strategic communications background, Ellen is the perfect candidate to re-imagine the possibilities for our Foundation, bringing it more in line with the larger objectives of our organization,” NRF president and CEO Matthew Shay said. “The decision to create a new vision for the NRF Foundation follows a year of significant financial investments by NRF to increase the power of our government relations and communications activities. Combined, these three priorities will ultimately provide NRF with a more robust, comprehensive platform to advocate on behalf of retailers.”

Davis joined NRF in 2002 as manager of media relations, continuing in positions of greater responsibility until being named VP in 2008. During her tenure, she has led the team responsible for NRF consumer research and industry trends as well as NRF communication vehicles, including social media, NRF SmartBrief, and Retail’s BIG Blog. She has been one of NRF’s most visible spokespeople, appearing regularly on broadcast programs including National Public Radio, CNN and CNBC, and in influential print publications. Most recently, she played a key role in the implementation of NRF’s heralded Retail Means Jobs campaign, a strategic initiative that highlights the retail industry’s role in job creation and innovation.

Davis also is credited with coining the phrase “Cyber Monday,” which now is considered by the media, consumers and retailers as the official kickoff of the online holiday shopping season.

Davis graduated with a degree in communication from Millikin University in Decatur, Ill.

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Report: Duane Reade features QR code on store facings for pedestrian passersby

BY Michael Johnsen

NEW YORK — Walgreens is making its Duane Reade street facings mobile-friendly with the addition of a QR-coded window cling across its storefronts, Mobile Marketer reported Tuesday.

It’s all part of the "Get social with Duane Reade" campaign for 2012 that will place the New York drug store on the Foursquare map, among other social venues. The QR codes also are promoted on Duane Reade’s website. Walgreens is in the process of developing a Duane Reade mobile application that will feature both prescription refill functionality, as well as mobile coupons, according to the report.

When users scan the window cling QR code, they are directed to Duane Reade’s mobile weekly deals site.

For the full Mobile Marketer report, click here.

 

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Fred’s delivers on remodel initiative, but sales lag

BY Mike Troy

MEMPHIS — Regional discounter Fred’s made good on its promise of a year ago to further expand a new merchandising initiative, but an intensely competitive market made fourth-quarter sales tough to come by.

Fred’s on Wednesday said sales for its fourth-quarter ended Jan. 28 increased a scant 2% to $498 million from $486 million, and same-store sales increased 0.1%. Profit grew 14% to $9.8 million, compared with $8.6 million the prior year. Earnings per share increased 23% to 27 cents, compared with 22 cents, and benefitted from a favorable adjustment to the income tax rate which added two cents a share. Fred’s CEO Bruce Efird characterized the results as solid in light of the ongoing challenges in the economy and an extremely competitive climate.

"During 2011, we focused on our key strategic goals (of) building customer traffic, increasing market share, and accelerating growth," Efird said. "Both customer traffic and market share increased for the year, and new store openings were up 70% for 2011 with the opening of 26 new stores and 24 pharmacies."

Many of those came during the fourth quarter when Fred’s opened 16 new stores and seven express pharmacy stores as part of its 2011 operating plan. One franchise store closed in the quarter. The company also upgraded 205 existing stores with elements of a merchandising scheme known as Core 5, bringing the two-year total of upgrades to 413 of the company’s 700 stores.

Core 5 is program begun at the start of 2010 which requires moderate changes to store layouts and space allocations to highlight such key trip-generating categories as home, celebration, pet, pharmacy and paper products and household chemicals. Fred’s believes it has a competitive advantage in these areas versus smaller box competitors and by improving customer traffic it can increase sales in higher margin, discretionary categories.

"Recognizing that the current economic backdrop may not improve significantly in our core markets, our team has developed enhanced merchandising plans and expanded product areas to reinforce the Super Dollar and Core 5 programs for 2012," Efird said.

"We are planning to continue our accelerated pharmacy expansion program and leverage the benefits of our pharmacy customers into all areas of our store."

As a result, Efird said the company in the coming year expects to improve its operating margin and produce double-digit earnings per share growth, even though first quarter same-store sales are expected to be flat with the prior year, while total sales are projected to grow between 3% and 5%. Those gains are forecast to produce earnings per share growth in the range of 26 cents to 28 cents compared with 24 cents the prior year. For the full year, total earnings per diluted share are expected to be in the range of 96 cents to $1.04, representing an increase of 10% to 20% over last year.

Fred’s total sales for fiscal 2011 increased 2% to $1.88 billion from $1.84 billion for the same period last year. Comparable-store sales for fiscal 2011 increased 0.5% on top of an increase of 2.2% for the same period last year. Gross margins were flat at 27.7% while expenses as a percentage of sales declined 10 basis points to 24.8%.

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