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Sears names new key executives

BY HBSDEALER Staff

As part of an ongoing restructuring effort, Sears Holdings has named two new key executives of divisions within its home improvement business.

John Froman, formerly CEO of Namco, a regional chain of large-sized family recreation specialty stores, will serve as head of Sears’ tools and lawn and garden divisions. Prior to his time at Namco, Froman served 19 years at Circuit City Stores, most recently as executive vp and chief operating officer.

“John’s wealth of retail experience and demonstrated success in retail operations, merchandising and strategic planning will help us operate the tools and lawn and garden businesses more efficiently and effectively,” said Bruce Johnson, interim CEO and president of Sears Holdings.

Sears also announced the promotion of Douglas Moore to the position of senior vp and president, appliances. Moore was hired as senior vp-hardlines merchandising at Sears Holdings in June 2007. He spent 17 years at Circuit City Stores, most recently as executive vp and chief merchandising officer. He also served in senior leadership positions within sales, operations and installation at Circuit City.

The new appointments are part of a bid, announced Jan. 24, to reorganize Sears Holdings into separate and more autonomous business units, following weak sales performances and lagging earnings.

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Boise Cascade secures additional financing

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Boise Cascade, one of the largest distributors of engineered wood products and building materials in the U.S., has secured a $350 million asset-based loan that will be used for working capital and to refinance existing debt. Banc of America Securities provided Boise Cascade with the credit facility, which includes a $150 million accordion feature, according to the announcement.

Boise Cascade treasurer Wayne Rancourt said the loan should “help us grow our distribution and engineered wood products business by increasing our position in existing markets, entering new geographic markets and expanding our product line.”

Headquartered in Boise, Idaho, Boise Cascade manufactures engineered wood products, plywood, lumber, and particleboard and distributes a broad line of building materials through 30 wholesale locations throughout the United States. Sales for fiscal 2007 were $5.4 billion.

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Williams-Sonoma earnings, sales rise in Q4

BY HBSDEALER Staff

Williams-Sonoma Inc., parent of high-end retailers Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma Home, reported earnings for the fourth quarter rose 3 percent to $124.6 million from $121.1 million in the same period last year, a gain spurred in part by an extra week in the 14-week quarter. Sales were up 9 percent to $1.37 billion from $1.25 billion.

Howard Lester, chairman and CEO of Williams-Sonoma, said the fourth-quarter results represented the higher end of company estimates for that period.

“While the post-holiday macro environment continued to soften, we remained focused on the things we could control,” he said. “We are pleased with these results.”

Overall, the company’s outlet stores saw a 4.4 percent gain in same-store sales, the largest same-store gain overall. Pottery Barn stores were down 1.5 percent in same-store sales, while Pottery Barn Kids stores fell 2.4 percent in same-store sales. Same-store sales rose 1.1 percent at kitchen decor retailer Williams-Sonoma.

For the year, earnings fell 6 percent to $195.8 million from $208.9 million. Year-over-year, sales were up 6 percent to $3.94 billion from $3.73 billion.

The company still expects the next year to be challenging, with Lester commenting it is expected to be “one of the most challenging macro-economic environments we have seen in many years.”

“Accordingly, we are approaching 2008 with a high level of caution and a view to preserve flexibility in our business plans,” he said.

In the 2008, Williams-Sonoma plans to add 29 new stores – 12 in the West Elm division – and expand or remodel an additional 20 stores. The San Francisco-based company operates about 600 stores, seven mail order catalogs and six e-commerce Web sites throughout the United States.

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