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Increases in retail container traffic expected through back-to-school season

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Import cargo volume at the nation’s major retail container ports will be flat in May compared with the same month last year, but is expected to see solid year-over-year increases through this summer and the back-to-school season, according to the monthly Global Port Tracker report released by the National Retail Federation and Hackett Associates. 

“Consumers are spending despite gas prices and other economic concerns, so retailers are stocking up to meet the demand,” said NRF VP supply chain and customs policy Jonathan Gold. “These numbers show imports growing through the back-to-school season and even into the beginning of the shipping cycle for the holiday season. That’s a sign that retailers are expecting a good year.”

U.S. ports followed by Global Port Tracker handled 1.18 million Twenty-foot Equivalent Units in March, the latest month for which after-the-fact numbers are available. That was up 14.1% from February, traditionally the slowest month of the year, and 8.5% from March 2011. One TEU is one 20-ft. cargo container or its equivalent.

April was estimated at 1.24 million TEU, up 2% from a year ago, and May is forecast at 1.28 million TEU, the same as last year. June is forecast at 1.3 million TEU, up 4%; July at 1.35 million TEU, up 1.8%; August at 1.42 million TEU, up 7.2%; and September at 1.45 million TEU, up 8.7%.

The first half of 2012 should total 7.3 million TEU, up 1.9% from the same period last year. The total for 2011 was 14.8 million TEU, up 0.4% from 2010’s 14.75 million TEU. NRF projects 2012 retail sales will grow 3.4% to $2.53 trillion.

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RONA sees smaller loss in Q1

BY Ken Clark

Boucherville, Quebec-based RONA, the Canadian hardware retailer and distributor, saw a sales increase of 1.8% in the first quarter of 2012, as the company narrowed its net loss.

Consolidated same-store sales were down 0.8% for the company that is putting more of an emphasis on what it calls its “proximity” stores designed for convenience and service.

Revenues for the quarter were C$934.9 million, up 1.8% from the previous year’s quarter. The company’s net loss was reduced to C$13.3 million in the first quarter, compared with a loss of C$17.6 million in the first quarter last year.

"Our New Realities, New Solutions business plan is going forward as planned,” said CEO Robert Dutton. “Just two months after it was introduced, 10 new prime sites have been chosen for the redeployment of business volume from identified big-box stores to our proximity and satellite stores. … These initiatives will enable us to gradually redeploy the sales volume from five of the 10 big-box stores whose closures were announced in February 2012.”

Dutton also reported a positive trend in sales in stores that specialize in building materials. “This demand for building materials bodes well for the coming months, because it usually signals the start of bigger construction and renovation projects,” he said.

Also, Jean Gaulin told the company’s shareholders at their annual meeting that he will step down. 

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Lowe’s realigns senior leadership team

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Lowe’s has announced a realignment of its leadership team to “more sharply focus the company on strategies to create and deliver seamless customer experiences.” Seamless retail across the brick and mortar and digital channels is a major focus of the retailer’s strategy. 

The retailer moved its executives into two teams: the Customer Experience organization, which will create customer experiences to differentiate Lowe’s from competitors, and the Operations organization, focused on delivering the customer experience.

The Customer Experience group will be led by Gregory Bridgeford, who was promoted to chief customer officer on May 5, after serving as EVP business development. Reporting to him will be:

• Bob Gfeller, now customer experience design executive; Gfeller was previously the EVP merchandising. Gfeller will lead the creation of customer experiences across channels, and will continue to fulfill his merchandising duties until Lowe’s fills that position.

• Tom Lamb, now chief marketing officer; previously Lamb was the SVP marketing and advertising. He is now responsible for all communications and marketing.

• Mike Mabry, now digital interfaces executive; Mabry was previously the EVP logistics and distribution. Mabry will lead the planning, development, and operation of Lowe’s website and other digital communications platforms.

Meanwhile, Rick Damron started his job as chief operating officer on May 5, after serving as EVP store operations. Damron will lead the Operations group, which will include:

• Dennis Knowles, now U.S. stores executive; Knowles previously served as SVP specialty sales and store operations support. He will manage operations of U.S. retail stores.

• Brent Kirby, now sales and service fulfillment executive; previously Kirby was SVP store operations, North division. Kirby will be managing operations of sales and services outside U.S. stores, including contact centers, installation, repairs and on-site sales.

• Gary Wyatt, real estate executive, will continue to manage real estate, engineering and construction, and facilities. He will lead design, planning, construction and maintenance of retail and customer service spaces for the U.S. business.

At the same time, Lowe’s also announced additional changes to its employee ranks:

• Richard Maltsbarger will serve as the new business development executive. Maltsbarger had served as SVP strategy. Maltsbarger is responsible for strategic planning, business process management, research and Lowe’s innovation center.

• Brian Peace is now corporate administration executive. Previously, Peace served as SVP corporate affairs. Peace is responsible for government affairs, corporate facilities, corporate security, aviation, and corporate events, and travel.

• Doug Robinson will now be head of international operations and development. Robinson had been SVP international operations and customer support services. Robinson will lead the retailer’s operations in Canada and Mexico, as well as international development. 

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