Outback Steakhouse to close 43 Restaurants, company reports $4.3 Million loss

Casual dining takes another hit as Bloomin Brands, the parent company of Outback Steakhouse has announced the closing of 43 restaurants according to this CBS report.

After a decline in sales, Bloomin’ brands – parent company of Outback Steakhouse – announced Friday they will be closing 43 restaurants.

Reported earnings show a loss of $4.3 million late last year. In 2015, the company brought in a net income of $17.7 million. The dining industry has been facing some financial challenges, because more customers are opting for takeout and delivery options.

According to Bloomin Brands press release:

“Although 2016 was a challenging year for both Bloomin’ Brands and the industry, we made real progress on our strategy to reallocate spending away from discounting toward investments to strengthen brand health, ” said Liz Smith, CEO. “We are pleased with how our brands are performing so far in 2017, particularly at Outback where we believe our investments are beginning to gain traction.”

On February 15, 2017, we decided to close 43 underperforming restaurants. In connection with these closures, we recognized pre-tax asset impairments of $46.5 million during Q4 2016, which includes three restaurants that closed in the fourth quarter. We expect to incur charges between $16 million to $19 million in fiscal year 2017 with the majority of these expenses occurring in the first quarter.

These 11 Retailers are on the brink of Bankruptcy

More bad news for retail as these 11 companies are on the verge of Bankruptcy according to this Money report.

Claire’s Stores: Known mostly as an accessory and apparel store for teens, struggling and closing stores for years, and engaged in debt restructuring talks over the course of several months last summer.

David’s Bridal: The company’s CEO resigned last summer, and Moody’s shifted David’s Bridal’s outlook from stable to negative in September.

Fairway: The supermarket chain went public in 2013 and has expanded rapidly in recent years. But it has also struggled with debt, and filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last spring. The company exited from bankruptcy a couple of months later, but apparently is not fully in the clear.

Gymboree: “The Gymboree Corporation’s high price perception has caused consumers to look elsewhere for children’s apparel,” a Fitch Ratings report declared a year ago. In November, the children’s apparel retailer was downgraded by Moody’s.

J. Crew: The preppy retailer has been in a slump for several years, and ended 2016 amid talks to restructure its $2 billion debt. The brand’s “high price perception, coupled with fashion misses, has created sharp traffic declines and aggressive markdowns necessary to clear excess inventory,” a Fitch Ratings report said of J. Crew.

Nine West: Moody’s analysts have described the debt level of this women’s shoes and handbags retailer as “unsustainable.”

Payless: The discount shoe seller engaged in negotiations recently to close 1,000 stores in a plan to restructure its enormous debt.

Sears: The department store company announced it would be closing over 100 Kmart and Sears stores in 2017, on top of 78 closures last summer.

TOMS Shoes: One of the first true socially conscious clothing lines to emerge last decade, Toms was downgraded by Moody’s last summer.

True Religion: The (once) trendy apparel retailer was forced to explore debt restructuring options last fall.

Boycott backfire: Wegmans stores sell out of Trump wine

The left likes to ruin everything, even a good glass of wine. Their latest failed attempt came when they demanded Wegmans stop carrying Trump wines. Laughably, the failed attempt caused the wine to sell out according to this Syracuse report.

Wegmans doubled down on their position stating we “would continue to stock products based on how well they sell, not politics.”

Finally a company with some balls…

Did a threat to boycott Wegmans over products with President Donald Trump’s name backfire?

The Rochester-based grocery store chain came under fire this week for carrying Trump wines at its 10 Virginia locations. The bottles come from the Trump Winery in Charlottesville, Va., bought by Trump in 2011 and given to his son, Eric Trump.

The National Organization for Women and other critics encouraged shoppers to take their business elsewhere, despite Wegmans’ cult following and positive reputation. “Let’s demonstrate through economic action that the residents and businesses of Charlottesville will not stand for the hatred espoused by Eric Trump and those like him,” the protest group Stop Trump Wine said.

However, the attention may have encouraged Trump supporters to buy more of the wines.

“As of late yesterday, we had sold out many varieties in our (Virginia) stores, and in some cases, all varieties,” Jo Natale, vice president of media relations for Wegmans, told the Democrat & Chronicle Friday. “For example, our two Richmond stores had completely sold out. Other stores had inventory of some varieties.”

A liquor store owner in Henrietta, N.Y., told the newspaper that he was also seeing increased demand: “Some people, sight-unseen, would just buy bottles of it.”

hhgregg is the next retailer to announce store closings…

This one is long overdue, hhgregg has finally realized they need to make some drastic changes according to this Dispatch report. Unfortunately, this involves closing stores…something they haven’t come to terms with yet.

Struggling appliance and electronics retailer hhgregg, unable to turn its fortunes around on its own, has brought in outside advisers to help it return to profitability.

The Indianapolis-based company has engaged financial adviser Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. and investment banker Miller Buckfire & Co. to pursue “a range of potential strategic and financial transactions,” the company said.

“We are committed to improving our results through our business strategy, including investments made to shift our focus to appliances and furniture, and additional expected cost reductions,” Robert J. Riesbeck, president and CEO, said in a statement. “We believe it is an appropriate time to explore potential strategic transactions.”

An hhgregg spokeswoman added in an email: “We are focused on improving the overall business results, and remain fully committed to serving our customers’ needs.”

Founded in 1955, hhgregg has 220 stores in 19 states. In central Ohio, the retailer has locations in the Dublin area, Easton, Grove City, Hilliard, Reynoldsburg, Heath and Chillicothe.

The company’s turnaround strategy could include closing some stores in central Ohio, said local retail analyst Chris Boring.

“They built the company to support a much higher level of sales, so they’ll have to do something,” Boring said. “They have to find a way to reduce costs. They’re going to have to look at lease expiration on a store-by-store basis and see which ones make sense to close.”

Shutting down the whole company is unlikely, at least for now, Boring said.

“I still see value there,” he said. “It could make a strategic fit with another retail chain. They’re still a major player in the appliance category. That’s one of the few retail categories that hasn’t been affected by online sales. Not many people will order a washer online.

“But they’re going to have to get out of consumer electronics. That’s where online has really made an impact.”

The company has struggled for years in the highly competitive electronics retail market and suffered a poor holiday sales season. In its most recent quarterly earnings report, hhgregg reported that sales decreased to $453 million from $593.2 million the same quarter the year before, badly missing the expectations of Wall Street analysts, who predicted $564 million in sales. Comparable store sales, a key indicator of a retailer’s health, plummeted by 22.2 percent.

Solar skyrockets 95% in 2016…

Solar continues to skyrocket in the U.S. According to this GTM report the market grew 95% in 2016 and shows no signs of letting up.

In its biggest year to date, the United States solar market nearly doubled its annual record, topping out at 14,626 megawatts of solar PV installed in 2016.

This represents a 95 percent increase over the previous record of 7,493 megawatts installed in 2015. GTM Research and the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) previewed this data in advance of their upcoming U.S. Solar Market Insight report, set to be released on March 9.

For the first time ever, U.S. solar ranked as the No. 1 source of new electric generating capacity additions on an annual basis. In total, solar accounted for 39 percent of new capacity additions across all fuel types in 2016.

“What these numbers tell you is that the solar industry is a force to be reckoned with,” said Abigail Ross Hopper, SEIA’s president and CEO. “Solar’s economically winning hand is generating strong growth across all market segments nationwide, leading to more than 260,000 Americans now employed in solar.”

Success this year was driven largely by the utility-scale segment, which was bolstered by a pipeline of projects initially hedging against the extension of the federal Investment Tax Credit. Not only did it represent the most megawatts installed, but the utility-scale segment also featured the highest growth rate of any segment, growing 145 percent from 2015.

“In a banner year for U.S. solar, a record 22 states each added more than 100 megawatts,” said Cory Honeyman, GTM Research’s associate director of U.S. solar. “While U.S. solar grew across all segments, what stands out is the double-digit-gigawatt boom in utility-scale solar, primarily due to solar’s cost-competitiveness with natural-gas alternatives.”

Credit card debt tops $1 trillion, most since the great recession

Credit is king as Americans finance their way to disaster. According to this CNBC report, credit card debt has topped $1 trillion, the most since the great recession.

With consumers feeling better about the economy, the amount of money borrowed on plastic has reached a high not seen since the Great Recession.

Outstanding credit card debt topped $1 trillion at the end of 2016, according to The Nilson Report, a card and mobile payment trade publication.

While household income has grown over the past decade, it has failed to keep up with the increased cost of living over the same period.

To bridge the gap, more Americans rely on credit cards, one of the most expensive ways to borrow. The average credit card interest rate is 19.36 percent and the average household pays a total of $1,332.80 in credit card interest each year, according to a separate report by NerdWallet.

MC Sports announces all 66 stores will be closing

The consolidation continues as Midwest staple MC Sports has announced they will be closing all 66 stores according to this Cleveland report.

MC Sports announced this morning that it plans to close all 66 of its stores across the Midwest.

A joint venture between Tiger Capital Group and Great American Group will conduct the going-out-of-business sale, which is now under way.

Founded in Grand Rapids in 1946, MC Sports was one of the few remaining privately held sporting goods chains in the country. It filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Feb. 14 in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court Western District of Michigan, Grand Rapids.

The company currently operates 24 stores in Michigan; 11 in Ohio including stores in Chardon, Wooster and Medina; seven in Indiana; eight in Illinois; seven in Wisconsin; five in Missouri, and four in Iowa. To see a list of locations, click here.

“Across the Midwest, MC Sports became a fabric of the community,” stated Scott K. Carpenter, President of GA Retail Solutions, a leading provider of asset disposition and auction solutions, and a subsidiary of B. Riley Financial, Inc.

MC Sports’ large-format stores carry sporting goods and apparel in many categories — from hunting, fishing and camping equipment, to running shoes, kayaks, treadmills, workout clothes, and team sports equipment.

During the liquidation event, shoppers will find discounts of up to 60 percent off the original prices on dozens of top brands with some exceptions, most notably firearms.

Greek bank runs start again….$3.2 billion withdrawn since the start of the year

With capital controls already in place Greece has managed to create another bank run. According to DW $3.2 Billion has been withdrawn since the first of they year.

Greek citizens had withdrawn close to 3 billion euros ($3.2 billion) since the beginning of the year, the Union of Greek Banks reported Friday.

The English-language news blog “keeptalkinggreece” spoke of a new bank run limited only by the capital controls currently in place. It noted that delays in the talks between Greece and its lenders had brought back the ghost of Grexit,” referring to the southern European nation’s possible exit from the eurozone.

The website said 2.5 billion euros had been withdrawn from private bank accounts over the past 45 days alone, “and this despite capital controls that allow Greeks to withdraw a maximum of just 1,800 euros per month.

GNC to close 100 stores, reports $433 million fourth-quarter loss

GNC, who has now rebranded themselves as a health and wellness retailer has reported a $433 million dollar fourth quarter loss according to this Pittsburgh Post report.

The bad news doesn’t end there as GNC reported a 64% decline in sales and the closing of 100 stores.

GNC officials on Thursday took pains to distance the company from the “old” GNC after reporting a $433.4 million fourth-quarter loss, marking the end of a dismal 2016 that saw a 64 percent decline in the Pittsburgh health supplement retailer’s share price.

For the year, GNC Holdings Inc. recorded a net loss of $286.3 million, compared with a $219.3 million profit the year before, as sales declined 6.5 percent and 6.8 percent respectively in company-owned and franchise stores. GNC’s consolidated revenue of $2.54 billion was a 5.3 percent drop from 2015’s $2.68 billion. Its adjusted earnings per share was 7 cents, far off Wall Street’s estimate of 36 cents per share.

“This is certainly not what any one of us wanted to see,” said interim CEO Robert Moran of GNC’s fourth-quarter performance during the company’s quarterly financial briefing to analysts.

The losses, said Chief Financial Officer Tricia Toliver, “are not a good indication of where the business is headed,” adding later that, “We are building an entirely new business model.”

Ms. Toliver was referring to the “One New GNC” campaign, launched Dec. 29 to rebrand the health and wellness retailer. The “new” GNC now features simplified pricing, reduced prices on about half of its products, and a free customer loyalty program, with plans to offer new proprietary products.

Mr. Moran said company officials are encouraged by the campaign’s early results, with sales transactions up 7 percent among company-owned stores and an even more promising performance among the GNC stores that have been piloting the program.

It undoubtedly can’t come soon enough for investors who, shortly after the GNC financials were released early Thursday, learned the GNC board was suspending the company’s quarterly dividend. Shares briefly fell below $7 for the first time since the company went public in 2011.

The stock closed at $7.72 Thursday, down 7.21 percent.

Ms. Toliver said the fourth quarter had notable one-time expenses such as a $10 million investment to clear inventory and launch the One New GNC campaign. As part of its preparation, GNC closed all of its stores for the day on Dec. 28, which also cut into sales. She also said the company expects to close about 100 stores this year as leases expire.

China’s Economy on Paper

In a series of published reports, China has given the world the impression that its economy has been prospering. However, this may not be entirely accurate.

According to data, it seems that less money is being circulated outside China over the past 12 months.

China bought government bonds from the U.S. in the last quarter of 2016. However, overall holdings fell by about $190 billion last year. FOREX reserves may have decreased at a slower rate in January but they fell below $3 trillion in 2016.

“The faster we get to $2.5 trillion, the quicker the sense of eventual disarray will be,” said Junheng Li, the Founder of equity research firm JL Warren Capital. “Additional tightening of capital controls is likely. However, we are starting to see restrictions imposed on areas with increasing marginal cost. Therefore, one needs to wonder if they will be able to slow down much further the pace of outflows.”

Li estimates that around $70 billion circulates outside China each month.

This isn’t the first time that China has presented contradictory reports. Despite reports of growth, FXCM reported that some experts have voiced their concerns about China manipulating its government data. The report went onto state that even Li Keqiang, current Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China, was skeptical whether some of the data presented by the country was accurate. In 2007, The Premier said that China’s GDP was “man made” and was therefore not dependable for analytical use. He said that the GDP figures were “for reference only”.

Recently, China’s capital Beijing tightened the control on individuals taking money outside the country. As a result, Chinese investors seem to being show less interest in buying assets in USD.

However, the Yuan could be in trouble again as the U.S. Federal Reserve moves to keep interest rates high this year could strengthen the dollar. According to speculation, this year could end with interest rates twice as high as they were when the stimulus package was still in place in the U.S.

“As long as the U.S. is in a tightening environment, we’ll likely see capital outflows” stated Francis Cheung, Head of China-Hong Kong strategy, a brokerage and investment firm based in Hong Kong.

If the USD’s strength declines, experts say it will probably be because of Trump’s unpredictability that directly affects the economy. However, the main factor that keeps the USD strong is the Federal Reserve’s high interest rates so investors are positive that the currency will stay strong despite minor fluctuations.

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