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Sears gives gloomy outlook ahead of annual meeting

BY Gail Hoffer

HOFFMAN ESTATES, Ill. — Sears Holdings will host its annual meeting on May 4, and attendees likely will want to know how the company plans to improve sales and return to profitability under the leadership of its new CEO, Lou D’Ambrosio.

Ahead of the meeting, the company reported a same-store sales decline of 3.6% for its fiscal first quarter, which included a 1.6% decrease at its Kmart stores and a 5.2% decrease at its Sears Domestic stores.

Sears Holdings said it is expecting a first-quarter net loss of between $145 million and $195 million, or between $1.35 and $1.81 per diluted share. In the first quarter of fiscal 2010, the company reported net income attributable to its shareholders of $16 million, or 14 cents per diluted share.

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Retailers mobilize their efforts

BY Gail Hoffer

WASHINGTON — Mobile and social initiatives are becoming increasingly important to retailers.

According to “The State Of Retailing Online 2011: Marketing, Social and Mobile” report conducted by Forrester Research for Shop.org, 91% of retailers currently have a mobile strategy in place or in development (up from 74% a year ago). Additionally, 72% of retailers said they will increase their spending on social networks this year over last year.

Retailers reported that 21% of all mobile traffic is coming from tablets; yet the overall amount of mobile traffic and revenue has not increased dramatically, suggesting that investment levels in site optimization still may be inadequate, Shop.org reported. For example, 48% of retailers reported having a mobile-optimized website, 35% have deployed an iPhone app and 15% offer an Android app and an iPad app.

“After spending the last few years learning how to capitalize on social media and new mobile technologies, one of retailers’ main focuses right now seems to be leveraging the tremendous popularity of tablet devices, such as the iPad,” said Shop.org head of research Fiona Swerdlow. “As sales channels continue to blur in retail, companies are creating mobile apps that make their brands seem current, entertaining or fun, while at the same time creating a unique opportunity to connect with more shoppers than ever before.”

According to the survey, retailers are investing more in social media but are unsure of the benefits. Sixty-two percent of retailers said the returns on social marketing strategies are unclear, and nearly the same percentage said the primary ROI from social marketing is listening to — and gaining a better understanding of — customers.

“The data indicates that significant investments in social and mobile tactics will be in place this year,” said Sucharita Mulpuru, VP and principal analyst for Forrester Research. “Retail executives should have modest expectations for the benefits of social commerce. With regard to mobile, retailers should be working to increasingly integrate features and functionality into the physical store experience. While consumers may not be extensively exploring product information yet, basic store information, transparent pricing and easy checkout capabilities are likely to be the most pressing opportunities for most sites in the near term.”

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Report: Marsh Supermarkets names new CEO

BY Allison Cerra

INDIANAPOLIS — A regional supermarket chain with stores in Indiana and Ohio has appointed a new CEO, according to a local report.

The Middletown Journal, an Ohio-based newspaper, said former Price Chopper EVP Joseph Kelley was named chairman, president and CEO of Marsh Supermarkets.

Marsh operates 78 Marsh Supermarkets and 3 O’Malia’s Food Markets, as well as 16 MainStreet Market locations in Indiana and Ohio. The company also boasts 41 pharmacy locations, according to the company’s website.

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