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Target hopes PFresh, savings program will drive sales

BY Allison Cerra

MINNEAPOLIS — Target said that although its comparable-store sales were below expectations in the South and Northeast, the company believes overall sales will be driven by two of its recent initiatives.

Target chairman, president and CEO, Gregg Steinhafel, said that while the company "expects the economy to remain challenging, Target’s PFresh remodel program and REDcard Rewards 5% savings program continue to operate in line with expectations."

Net retail sales for Target totaled nearly $4.4 billion, a 3.3% rise from the year-ago period. Meanwhile, January comparable-store sales increased 1.7%. The retailer added that year-to-date sales totaled about $65.8 billion, up 3.7%.

The earnings release shortly followed the company’s announcement to extend its retail operations to Canada, which will be led by Tony Fisher, former Target VP merchandise operations.

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BJ’s Wholesale placed on sales block

BY Michael Johnsen

WESTBOROUGH, Mass. — After months of speculation, BJ’s Wholesale Club early Thursday morning confirmed the company has decided to explore and evaluate strategic alternatives. Coupled with that announcement was a positive sales story for the year.

BJ’s stock was up by more than $5 to $48.66 in early morning trading on Thursday. Over the last year, the company’s shares have risen about 30%, fueled in part by takeover speculation. Rumors that BJ’s may be a takeover target have circulated since the summer, when Leonard Green & Partners bought a 9.5% stake.

An independent committee of BJ’s has engaged Morgan Stanley as its financial adviser to assist in this process.

BJ’s also reported positive January sales results despite the number of cold-weather storms that recently have swept the country. Sales were up 6.5% to $779.8 million. Comparable sales also were up 2.7%, including a contribution from sales of gasoline of 2.4%.

Excluding the impact of gasoline, merchandise comparable-club sales increased by approximately 0.3%. Severe snowstorms affecting the Northeast and mid-Atlantic regions had a negative impact on merchandise comparable-club sales of approximately 2.5%, the club retailer estimated.

Total sales for the wholesaler were up 8.3% to $10.6 billion for the year ended Jan. 29, with comparable sales up by 4.4%, including a contribution from sales of gasoline of 2%. Excluding gasoline, merchandise comparable-club sales increased 2.4%. BJ’s operates 189 warehouse clubs in 15 states.

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Hallmark brings voices to storybooks

BY Allison Cerra

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Hallmark is expanding its Recordable Storybook collection by adding two classic titles to the line.

Readers now can add their own voices to "Goodnight Moon" and "Curious You on Your Way," which join the roster of such other classic stories as "Guess How Much I Love You," "Counting Kisses" and "On the Night You Were Born."

Hallmark Recordable Storybooks feature voice-capture technology so that when a page is turned, the book automatically plays the text on that page in the reader’s voice, allowing people to "read" to a child or other loved one. The line debuted in late 2009 with "The Night Before Christmas."

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