WARD'S BUYS LECHMERE: Montgomery Ward has agreed to acquire Lechmere Inc., a chain of 24 hard-goods stores based in Wobern, Mass. Terms were not disclosed. Lechmere had total sales of $800 million last year and will continue to operate as a separate division under its own name. Four new stores are planned this year.

BLUE RIBBON: Target Stores took top honors in the Retail Advertising and Marketing Association's annual advertising contest.

At the Retail Advertising Conference last week in Chicago, the Minneapolis-based discount chain won Best of Show for its multimedia campaign heralding the simultaneous opening of 11 Target Greatland Stores in the Chicago area last spring.

The campaign included animated billboards, a "radio roadblock" -- running the same commercial simultaneously on all Chicago stations -- and many celebrity endorsements.

Target was also given a special merit citation for a public service campaign supporting preservation of national parks and featuring Vice President Al Gore and Robert Redford.

The chain's vice president of marketing, Bob Thacker, was elected to the Retail Advertising Hall of Fame.

J.C. Penney was also honored, winning the Newspaper Association of America's Retail Partnership Award for taking a leading role in using newspapers.

BLUE CHRISTMAS: Bruised by lower than expected sales at its Christmas stores and the California earthquake, Mac Frugal's Bargains-Close-outs Inc. said per-share earnings for the year ended Jan. 30 will be dragged down by 16 cents. The company still expects to post a profit for the year, but its numbers won't be released for a few weeks.

Phil Carter, executive vice president and chief financial officer of the Dominguez, Calif., chain, said the analysts' earnings estimate range before the announcement had been between $1.25 and $1.32 per share.

Mac Frugal's had projected sales of $200,000 per store and a 15 percent pretax contribution, or about $30,000, from its 165 stores open only during the Christmas season. Instead, it generated about $160,000 per store and a pretax contribution of only 1 percent. The company attributed the earnings shortfall of 10 cents a share to lower sales and lower than expected gross margins.The company also said it will take a pretax charge of $3 million, or 6 cents a share, in the fourth quarter to account for damage from the Los Angeles earthquake, which affected 30 stores.

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