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Is a turnaround at Sears Holdings on the way?

BY Alaric DeArment

WHAT IT MEANS AND WHY IT’S IMPORTANT — One of the most enduring rules of business is that when customers stop coming through the door, then the time has come for a reinvention.

Recent decisions by Sears Holdings indicate that despite its financial problems, it’s not too late for a comeback. The hiring of Ron Boire to head merchandising could give it new direction, while the introduction of the Fitness Flagship store-within-a-store allows Sears to capitalize on an area in which it has long specialized while taking advantage of the growing interest in health and wellness.

(THE NEWS: Kmart parent brings in new merchandising leader. For the full story, click here)

In particular, hiring Boire — whom president and CEO Lou D’Ambrosio singled out as somebody known for engineering turnarounds — indicates that Sears Holdings is looking to engineer a turnaround, and given its situation, it could certainly use one.

At the end of December, the company announced it would shutter more than 100 stores, as well reduce domestic inventory by $300 million. This came in the wake of disappointing sales results that showed a 5.2% decline in comps for the eight-week period ending Dec. 25. The company posted similarly disappointing results in third quarter 2011, including a $421 million net loss and a 0.9% decline in comps at Kmart, a 0.7% decline at U.S. Sears stores and a 7.8% decline in the company’s Canadian stores.

Sears is one of the oldest major retailers in the country and an American cultural icon, but it’s also old-fashioned compared with competitors like Target and Walmart. There’s nothing wrong with the products it sells today in and of themselves, but today’s consumers are more likely to go to specialty retailers like Home Depot, Best Buy and Macy’s to buy the tools, appliances and clothing that past consumers would have purchased at Sears.

If Sears Holdings wants to make a comeback, it’s going to have to show consumers and investors why it’s special and what it can do that other retailers can’t.

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Senior advocacy group publicly requests ESI to settle Walgreens dispute

BY Michael Johnsen

WASHINGTON — RetireSafe, a 400,000-supporter strong grassroots organization that advocates and educates on behalf of America’s seniors on issues regarding Social Security, Medicare, health and financial well-being, on Friday issued a press release urging Express Scripts to return to the negotiating table and come to an agreement with Walgreens.

"Walgreens is a valued community partner upon which seniors and their families rely," stated Thair Phillips, RetireSafe president. "As a representative of these Americans in communities across the country, we urge Express Scripts to put the health and safety of retired Americans first and to return swiftly to contract negotiations with Walgreens," he said. "The loss of these services is already proving to be detrimental to the health and safety of retired Americans."

In a letter to Express Scripts, the organization expressed the impact of Express Scripts’ decision not to cover prescriptions filled at Walgreens on its members.

"We are well aware that Walgreens provides services well beyond simply filling prescriptions. In fact, they offer 24-hour access, immunizations, walk-in healthcare centers and medication management programs," the letter stated. "Denying retired Americans access to these services is much more than a business decision — it is one that will directly affect the quality of life for hundreds of thousands of seniors. By denying access to these services, Express Scripts also assaults Americans’ ability to retire safely by chipping at health security, which is one of retirement’s major cornerstones."

RetireSafe is a nonprofit, nonpartisan grassroots senior advocacy organization based in Washington, D.C.

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Oh, Canada! Target unveils first stores up north

BY Allison Cerra

MINNEAPOLIS — Target revealed Thursday the locations of the first 24 Canadian stores.

Target said the stores will open in March/early April 2013 and will be located in Brampton, Mississauga and Toronto, among others. Additional locations will be announced in the coming months.

As previously reported, Target purchased the leasehold interests of 189 sites currently operated by Zellers, and is slated to open 125 to 135 stores in Canada, the majority of which will open in 2013. Approximately $10 million to $11 million will be invested to remodel each facility, the retailer said.

“We are excited to announce the location of these first 24 Target stores in Ontario,” Target Canada president Tony Fisher said. “In addition to providing Canadian guests with an exceptional shopping experience, Target looks forward to continuing our strong reputation of being a good neighbor in the Canadian communities in which we will do business.”

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