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Retail Trends

Power Players Department Stores

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Many questions are swirling around the department store segment, with much attention paid to Ron Johnson’s departure at J.C. Penney. Johnson moved to JCP with great fanfare after heading Apple’s expansion into physical stores, but his reign came to a dispirited end this spring; former CEO Mike Ullman was returned to Penney’s helm until a successor is named.

Sears raises questions almost every time it reports financial results. After starting the fiscal year with an 8.8 percent decline in revenue from last year and a $279 million loss in the first quarter, major shareholder and chairman Eddie Lampert told investors and analysts that the company’s performance was “not acceptable.”

Sometimes the questions aren’t so negative: How much further can Kohl’s extend its reach? Will Belk become more than just a Southern retailer? Kohl’s saw sales, earnings and comparable-store sales dip in the first quarter but opened nine new stores and plans three more in the fall, plus 30 remodeled locations before the year is out.

As for Belk, which is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, there is more planning going into its multi-channel strategy than in expanding its footprint beyond the 16 states where it currently operates.