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Sears Holdings CEO to step down

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Sears Holdings has announced president and CEO Aylwin B. Lewis will step down from his role on Feb. 2. Lewis also will step down from the Sears Holdings board of directors at that time, according to a statement from the company.

Lewis will be replaced in the interim by W. Bruce Johnson, who currently serves as executive vp-supply chain and operations. Sears Holdings “will immediately commence a formal search to identify a permanent chief executive officer,” the statement reads.

“We’ve accomplished a great deal under Aylwin’s leadership and we are very grateful for his commitment to Sears during a critical time in the company’s history,” said Edward Lampert, chairman of Sears Holdings and head of ESL Investments.

Sears’ statement did not outline a specific reason for Lewis’ departure, but last week company representatives announced a series of sweeping changes in the retailer’s corporate structure. Lampert commented on the changes, saying, “We are entering a new phase in Sears’ evolution as a multichannel retailer.”

“As we realign Sears into five different types of focused business units, we will be redefining how our leaders operate by giving them greater autonomy and accountability for their businesses,” Lampert said. “We intend to put in place an operating model that allows managers to act with the flexibility and speed required in today’s dynamic and highly competitive marketplace.”

Johnson hails from Sears’ Kmart division, which he joined in 2003 after serving as director, organization and systems, at European retailer Carrefour. Prior to that, he spent 16 years in various roles at Colgate-Palmolive.

“I am excited to be taking on this role, and I am focused on continuing to transform Sears into a stronger, more efficient company,” Johnson said. “While Sears and our industry are facing many challenges, I believe that we are taking all the right steps to build a great retailer.”

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New home sales show further weakness

BY HBSDEALER Staff

New single-family home sales fell further in December, down 4.7 percent from November, according to figures released today by the United States Commerce Department. December’s seasonally adjusted annual rate of 604,000 units was a full 40.7 percent below the same period a year ago.

The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) called the lower results further evidence of a need for a federal “economic stimulus package to boost the ailing economy.”

“The continuing deterioration in the housing market, as reflected in today’s numbers, underscores the need to do more to stabilize housing and the economy,” said Jerry Howard, executive vp and CEO of the NAHB.

“[Federal] policymakers are meeting this week, and they can do their part to help by continuing to cut interest rates and inject liquidity into the financial markets,” added NAHB chief economist Dave Seiders.

Regionally, new home sales fell 6.5 percent in the South, 6 percent in the West and 1.2 percent in the Midwest month-over-month. The Northeast posted a 6 percent gain. All regions were down substantially on a year-over-year basis, ranging from a 27.4 percent fall-off in the Northeast to a 55.8 percent drop in the Midwest.

The inventory of new homes for sale was down 2.3 percent to 495,000 units in December, as builders continued to gradually work down their inventory. The equivalent months’ supply at the December sales pace edged up to 9.6 months from 9.4 months in November.

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Restoration Hardware agrees to lower price in merger plan

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Corte Madera, Calif.-based Restoration Hardware, a specialty retailer that has had financial difficulties over the last year, has agreed to a lower per-share price from investment group Catterton Partners.

According to the company, it will now accept a per-share price of $4.50, down from an original price of $6.70. The new agreement still allows time for competing bids from other companies, including Sears Holdings, which earlier offered a bid of $6.75 per share for the high-end home decor retailer.

“This additional time period for competing proposals will allow Sears or other third parties that may have an interest to make an offer to acquire the company,” said Restoration Hardware in a statement. “There is no assurance that any third party, including Sears, will pursue a competing proposal to acquire the company or that the solicitation of superior proposals will result in an alternative transaction.”

In mid-January, Restoration Hardware revealed sluggish holiday sales. The company said net revenue took a small hit, falling 1 percent to $171.5 million from $173.2 million in the same nine-week period last year.

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