Sears quietly announces layoffs at their corporate office…

Sears has quietly announced 130 jobs will be disappearing at their corporate office.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Sears is trying to ‘create a more nimble operating structure.’

It’s only a matter of time before Sears starts to close massive amounts of stores like J.C. Penney

Sears Holdings laid off about 130 corporate employees Thursday, part of a restructuring plan aimed at cutting at least $1 billion in costs this year.

The 130 employees worked in various roles at Sears’ corporate offices, mostly in its Hoffman Estates headquarters, Sears spokesman Chris Brathwaite said.

Sears Chairman and CEO Edward Lampert, in a letter to employees, said the job cuts were needed to “create a more nimble operating structure capable of driving the company’s strategic transformation forward.”

Other steps in the restructuring are still being planned, Lampert said in the letter.

“We need to continue to take action to adapt to the new realities of the retail industry and become more efficient and more competitive over the long term,” Lampert wrote. “This is an important phase in our transformation and all of you will play a role in helping us redefine the way (we) work and as we deliver our best products and services to our Shop Your Way members through the restructuring program.”

Sears declined to say how many employees currently work at its headquarters, but Brathwaite said it remains above the 4,250 employees required by a package of tax breaks Sears received after threatening to leave the state in 2011. At the time, Sears had 6,200 employees at its headquarters.

Family Christian to close all 240 stores after 85 years in business

Family Christian has announced they will closing all 240 retail locations after 85 years in business.

This unfortunate closing will impact 3,000 workers and 36 states according to this Econ Times report.

Family Christian is announcing today it will close its doors – after 85 years in business. Changing consumer behavior and declining sales led the world’s largest retailer of Christian themed merchandise to make the difficult decision to close.  Family Christian is a not-for-profit business that employs more than 3,000 people and operates over 240 retail locations in 36 states, nationwide. Family Christian Ministries has provided humanitarian aid for more than 14 million orphans, widows and oppressed people across the globe.

“We had two very difficult years post-bankruptcy,” said Chuck Bengochea, company President. “Despite improvements in product assortment and the store experience, sales continued to decline.  In addition, we were not able to get the pricing and terms we needed from our vendors to successfully compete in the market. We have prayerfully looked at all possible options, trusting God’s plan for our organization, and the difficult decision to liquidate is our only recourse.”

Alarming trend: Independent restaurants are quietly disappearing across the Unites States

Independent restaurants are quietly closing across the United States. According to this Grub Street report places where people can eat are at there lowest point in 10 years.

The number of restaurants fell by 2 percent nationwide in 2016, according to this report by market-research firm NPD Group, which says this puts the per-capita tally of places where Americans can eat “at its lowest level in the past ten years.” The group did find one segment invulnerable to the recession, at least in terms of sheer numbers, and it’s chains — more specifically, fast-food chains.

The chains (both fast-casual and full-service) grew by one percent in 2016, for a total of 297,351 units. (So almost half the country’s 620,807 restaurants are now chains.) The worst statistic of all is that the closures have not just impacted independently owned restaurants, but disproportionately ones in the full-service, sit-down segment of the industry. Fast-food chains are seeing runaway success — they grew by 7 percent this past year.

Lowe’s lays off hundreds as corporate office gets cleaned out

Lowe’s has laid off over 500 full time corporate employees according to this Charlotte Observer report.

Home improvement retailer Lowe’s has laid off more than 500 full-time corporate employees company-wide in its latest effort to streamline the company and boost profitability.

The layoffs include 430 workers at Lowe’s headquarters in Mooresville, or nearly 11 percent of its workforce there, as well as 70 support staffers in Wilkesboro and about 25 corporate support positions in other facilities across the U.S., the company told the Observer on Tuesday.

The layoffs amount to less than 1 percent of Lowe’s 285,000 employees company-wide. Those who lost jobs will receive severance and outplacement services, the company said.

The latest job changes come about a month after Lowe’s cut about 2,400 full-time positions across its U.S. footprint as part of a rollout of a new store staffing model. The majority of those cuts were at the store level, Lowe’s said, though other affected positions were at distribution centers, contact centers and at the company’s corporate offices.

In October, the retailer also laid off about 95 people in its information technology department.

Even as it makes these cuts, the company is adding other positions. Last week, Lowe’s announced plans to hire 1,700 full-time workers, including 600 in Wilkesboro, to staff its customer-support centers between now and October. With the latest staffing changes, Penhall said, Lowe’s overall employment in North Carolina will remain consistent.

Before the recent layoffs, Lowe’s employed more than 4,000 at its Mooresville offices, about 30 miles north of Charlotte. The company employs another 2,000 in Wilkesboro, a town about 90 miles northwest of Charlotte where Lowe’s was founded in 1946.

CSX railway has announced 1,000 management level layoffs

More bad news for the economy as CSX railway has announced 1,000 management level layoffs according to this Florida Times Report.

CSX will be laying off 1,000 management-level employees, the Jacksonville-based railroad confirmed Tuesday. The same day, the company announced that CEO and Chairman Michael J. Ward and President Clarence W. Gooden are retiring, effective May 31.

The majority of layoffs will come in Jacksonville, company spokesman Gary Sease said, but the exact numbers are not known yet. The company has more than 2,500 management employees in the area.

The impacted employees will be notified next month.

The announcements were just the latest in what’s been a hectic month at the railroad. CSX has been a target of activist investor Paul Hilal’s Mantle Ridge LP, which is backing railroad veteran Hunter Harrison to become CSX’s chief executive.

The company has not commented further on the layoffs nor acknowledged any connected between them and Harrison’s potential arrival. But while Harrison has developed a reputation for turning around three previous railroads – Illinois Central, Canadian National, and Canadian Pacific – they’ve often come with a price. During Harrison’s five years at Canadian Pacific, employment was reduced by more than 6,000, about one-third of its total staff.

Macy’s announces 34 more store closings as profits fizzle

The hits keep coming for Macy’s as the retailer has quietly announced 34 more stores will be closing according to this MSNBC report.

Macy’s reiterated on Tuesday that it will close roughly 100 total stores over the next few years as it works to restore its declining profitability level.

The chain has been struggling to grow earnings as consumers increasingly spend their money at off-price and online competitors.

After outlining 68 of the stores it plans to close last month, the chain said Tuesday morning that it will close roughly 34 additional stores “over the next few years.” It did not provide additional details regarding where those stores would be.

Macy’s braces for another bad year as profits fall 13%

More bad news for Macy’s as the struggling retailer has announced a 13% drop in profits according to this Detroit News report.

Macy’s, the nation’s largest department store chain, says its earnings for the quarter that includes the holiday period dropped nearly 13 percent as results were dragged down by store closures and other costs.

The company has faced sluggish sales for the past two years as customers buy more online and less at the malls where Macy’s is often an anchor. It has been shuttering stores as it tries to regroup.

Macy’s has also been under pressure from shareholders to get more value out of its real estate holdings, valued by activist investor Starboard at nearly $21 billion. The chain has reportedly been in preliminary talks with Hudson’s Bay about a takeover or a real estate deal, though the company made no mention in its earnings report of any discussions. It did say it will be looking to further monetize its locations.

Macy’s earned $475 million, or $1.54 per share, in the three-month period ended Jan. 28. That compares with $544 million, or $1.73 per share, in the year-ago period. Adjusted earnings per share came to $2.02. Analysts had expected $1.95 per share for the quarter, according to FactSet.

Macy’s brand still has around 700 stores, though it has been more aggressive about closings while also scrambling to offer more exclusive merchandise and expand online. It’s also tried launching its own off-price stores called Macy’s Backstage, highlighting consumer tech like smart watches and testing an artificial intelligence tool that would free up sales assistants to provide higher levels of customer service.

Cincinnati-based Macy’s is the first major department store chain to report its fourth-quarter results. Last month, J.C. Penney and Kohl’s both announced poor holiday sales. Ailing Sears Holdings Corp., which operates Sears and Kmart, announced earlier this month that it expects sales at established stores to fall more than 10 percent for the quarter.

HSBC announces an ugly bottom line as profits fall 62%

More bad news for the bankers as HSBC announces a 62% slide in profit according to this MSNBC report.

HSBC Holdings reported a 62 percent slump in annual pre-tax profit that fell way short of analysts’ estimates due to one-time charges related to some businesses, and announced a new $1 billion share buy-back.

Europe’s biggest bank by assets said on Tuesday profit before tax for 2016 fell to $7.1 billion from $18.87 billion in the previous year. That compared with the average analyst estimate of $14.4 billion, according to Thomson Reuters data.

The bank’s Hong Kong-traded shares fell about 3 percent following the release of the results.

The 2016 profit reflected a $3.2 billion impairment of goodwill in its global private banking business in Europe and the impact of its sale of operations in Brazil, the bank said in a statement to the stock exchanges. The private banking impairment charges mainly relate to its acquisition of Safra Republic Holdings in 1999, it said, without giving details.

“We have considered it appropriate to write off the remaining goodwill in the European private banking business,” it said, adding the restructuring of global private banking is now largely complete.

The $1 billion share buy-back takes HSBC’s announced buy-backs since the second half of 2016 to $3.5 billion following the bank’s disposal of its Brazil unit in July last year in a $5.2 billion deal.

“We are investing over $2 billion in digital transformation initiatives to improve our offer to customers, and are instigating a further $1 billion buy-back programme reflecting the strength and flexibility of our balance sheet,” Stuart Gulliver, group chief executive, said in a statement.

Is San Fran’s Rent Dip Enough to Make it Affordable?

If January’s numbers are any indication, it could be a good year for San Francisco renters. According to RENTCafé’s most recent market report, the coastal city is one of only a handful to see a year-over-year dip in rent costs — a surprising feat, since San Fran’s rents hit historic highs over the last decade. But it’s true: rents decreased nearly a full percent from January 2016 to January 2017, down to an average of $3,378 per month.

The drop is likely due to a serious influx of apartment units in 2016, a year that saw the city gain nearly 10,000 new units — 126 percent more than the year prior. One-bedrooms, in particular, saw a decent drop in San Francisco, declining more than 2 percent since January 2016.

Though the slight drop in rents is probably a relief to San Franciscans — as well as those considering a Westward move — it’s still not enough to knock S.F. off the nation’s highest rents list.

In January, San Francisco had the second-highest rents in the country, coming in right behind Manhattan. San Fran’s rent is also about 2.5 times higher than the national average, which was just $1,315 for the month. Since San Francisco is now seeing industry and resident spillover from Silicon Valley, the higher-than-average rents come as no surprise.

Unfortunately, San Francisco’s dropping rents are about the only bright spot on California’s real estate radar, as nearly every major city has seen a recent (and significant) jump in rent. Sacramento, Stockton, Long Beach, Riverside, and Los Angeles all had big rises, with Sacramento’s taking the cake: its rents climbed more than 12.5 percent in just one year.

But don’t let California’s market get you down; in fact, the national apartment market is in a pretty good place. Though the average national rent grew by $5 dollars, it’s not likely the trend will continue. A flood of newly built apartment units should expand inventory and temper rent growth in many of the nation’s biggest cities.

If you’re really looking to save on rent in 2017 though, make the West or South your destination. Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Corpus Christi, Texas, both saw year-over-year drops in rent, and some of the country’s lowest average rents were seen in these regions, too, including Memphis, Tennessee ($718/month); El Paso, Texas ($750/month); Tucson, Arizona ($773/month); and Albuquerque, New Mexico ($814/month). The two most affordable cities were Wichita, Kansas ($626/month) and Toledo, Ohio ($658/month.)

Toys R Us quietly lays off hundreds, $850 million in debt

Toys R Us is on the verge of collapse.

According to this Forbes report hundreds of layoffs have hit their corporate headquarters.

The company is struggling with $850 million in debt, making bankruptcy a possibility in the next few years.

For decades, Toys “R” Us has stood as one of the most reliable and iconic sources of childhood glee. Now, that tradition is on shaky ground. This Friday, the company announced they had laid off between 10-15% of their home office employees out of Wayne, New Jersey — approximately 250 jobs were eliminated.

Amy Von Walter, Toys “R” Us EVP of Global Communication and PR, stated that, ”The recent changes are not just about cost-containment—our growth plans require us to have the right structure, talent and determination to transform our business and achieve the financial objectives we’ve set for the company.”

A long time coming

Toys “R” Us, or TRU, has been struggling financially for some time. In 2005, investors led by KKR & Co., Bain Capital, and Vornando Realty Trust bought out the company for $6.6 billion. In 2016, the business refinanced its remaining $850 million debt load, allowing investors holding bonds maturing in 2017 and 2018 to swap their holdings for those maturing in 2021.

Multiple factors are contributing to Toys R Us’ problems. Like other retailers, TRU has struggled to find new ways of operating as consumers shift to more online buying. People simply aren’t trekking to the malls that previously helped the toy chain dominate. Plus, savvy competitors like Walmart and Target have tripled their toy aisles & seasonal offerings during holiday season, allowing customers to cross TRU off the store list.

Amazon also cuts into sales as a major competitor, but it’s particularly painful as Toys R Us has historically had trouble getting products to customers. In 2015, they ran out of on-site goods which prompted TRU to try a new inventory algorithm, but ecommerce fulfillment issues were created as they underestimated holiday volume. Since the buyout ten years ago, the company has also been managed by no fewer than four CEOs: