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Retailing Update

Walmart Plans Early Christmas Eve Close

Walmart may have begun its Black Friday sales on Thanksgiving, but it is closing early on Christmas Eve.

The No. 1 discount chain said it will shut its stores two hours earlier than last year on Dec. 24, as “Getting home on Christmas Eve to spend time with families is important,” said Walmart U.S. COO Judith McKenna.

It will also be the first night of Hanukkah.

To compensate for the early close, the retailer will provide last-minute in-store pick up of eligible online purchases. Orders placed as late at 6 p.m. on Dec. 23 can be retrieved right up until closing the following day under its same-day pick-up program, which covers thousands of locally stocked items.

Walmart has also set up a dedicated microsite — com — to help customers identify eligible products.

“We’ve promised customers that we will be there for them the entire holiday season whether they are shopping for gifts or the everyday basics they count on us for,” said chief merchandising officer Steve Bratspies. “We are making it easy for customers to find last-minute gifts in stores and online by ensuring we’re stocked with top items and offering pickup through Dec. 24.”

Eligible tech items include:

• Promark’s 3D virtual reality HD drone for $148;
• Dream Vision VR headset for $17.88;
• Google Home for $129;
• Fuji Instax Mini7s camera with 10-pack film for $49, a $10 savings;
• GoPro Hero 5 Session Camera for $299;
• a Roku 55-inch 4K Ultra HD smart TV for $428;
• Vizio’s SmartCast 65-inch 4K Ultra HDTV with Chromecast for $778 and the Roku Express+ for $39;
• Xbox One S White 500GB “Battlefield 1” console bundle and PlayStation 4 “Uncharted 4” console bundle, each for $269, a $30 savings;
• HP’s Manhattan Gold Ci5 touch laptop for $499, a $100 savings; and
• Samsung’s Tab A 8-inch tablet for $149, a $20 savings.

Sears President And Services Chief Depart

Sears Holdings lost two senior-level execs late last month.

Joelle Maher left the company after 17 months as president/chief member officer of the Sears division, and executive VP Jeffrey Balagna is gone as services group president.

The departures came in the heart of the critical holiday selling season, and in advance of Sears’ third-quarter earnings report.

Losses swelled to $395 million last quarter, and the company faces a significant risk of default within the next one to two years, the Fitch rating service said in September.

Maher, previously COO of Gymboree, joined the company in July 2015. At the time, chairman/CEO Eddie Lampert cited her “depth and breadth of retail and business experience and ability to achieve superior results in established organizations.”

In a statement issued to TWICE, the retailer said: “We appreciate Joelle’s service at Sears and wish her well her in future endeavors.” No successor was named.

Her departure was first reported by Business Insider.

Balagna joined Sears in 2013 from Eli Lilly as executive VP/chief information officer, and succeeded Arun Arora on an interim basis as president of home services two years later. That position was later assigned to Sean Skelley, while Balagna served as board chair for home services and Sears Auto Centers.

Sears has positioned home services as a critical element of an overarching connected-home strategy that also leverages its legacy Kenmore, Craftsmen and DieHard private-label badges. But last May it hired two investment banks to explore outside alternatives for its house brands and services business.

In a filing, Sears said Balagna left the company on Nov. 30 “in order to focus on his other business interests and pursue other career opportunities.”

But not all of the executive changes are exits. Last month Jason Hollar was promoted to chief financial officer, succeeding Robert Schriesheim who, like Balagna, left “to focus on his other business interests and pursue other career opportunities,” Sears said.

Sears’ Losses Deepen Amid Sales Declines

Sears Holdings said lower sales and a host of ledger expenses led to wider losses in its fiscal third quarter.

Net loss was $748 million for the three months, ended Oct. 29, compared with a year-ago loss of $454 million.

Revenues fell 14 percent to $5 billion due largely to store closings, while comp sales declined 7.4 percent, accounting for over 40 percent of the revenue drop.

Broken out by store group, Kmart comps decreased 4.4 percent on weakness in CE, offset by gains in outdoor, while Sears comps decreased 10 percent on declines in its core appliance category and CE.

In a pre-recorded conference call, chief financial officer Jason Hollar said the company will continue to close unprofitable stores, sub-lease in-store retail space, cut costs, and reduce or drop underperforming categories to restore profitability.

Hollar specifically cited Sears’ consumer electronics business, the size of which has been “significantly reduced” amid operating losses.

He said Sears has addressed CE by implementing “a variety of initiatives, primarily focused online, to maintain and restructure how we serve our members in the consumer electronics category.” Nevertheless, he noted, “We will not be able to completely overcome the revenue reduction in our consumer electronics business.”

In contrast, Sears said it is “reinforcing” its leadership positions in majaps and home services with new, innovative products and improved service levels and response times.

Hollar said the company also remains focused on its “member-centric integrated retail model,” and its Shop Your Way loyalty program, having invested $2 billion in the latter to date in redeemed member points.

He added that Sears may continue to sell off assets to generate liquidity, including its stores, home services business, and legacy Kenmore, Craftsman and Die-Hard brands.

Other potential alternatives for its private-label roster include partnerships and distribution outside of Sears, the company said.

The chain operated 1,503 stores as of Oct. 29, including 403 owned and 1,100 leased locations, although that number will drop as more stores are closed in the current quarter.

Best Buy Selling Limited-Edition Tech Gifts

Just in time for Christmas, Best Buy has released a collection of 13 “special edition” tech gifts for the geek (or Beatles fan) who has everything.

The items, which include a $650 Beatles collectible Pro-Ject turntable, are mostly exclusive to Best Buy and are only available in limited quantities, some with as few as 2,000 units in stock.

The products can be purchased online and at all or select Best Buy stores as long as supplies last. The full list includes:

• Shinola Magnolia Red Belt Runwell Turntable;
• Lenovo Yoga 910 Glass-Lid Laptop;
• Beats Unity Edition Studio Wireless Headphones: available in USA, Mexico and Canada colors;
• Kate Spade New York Activity Tracker;
• DJI Phantom 4 Quadcopter in black;
• The Beatles Collectible 1964 Pro-Ject Turntable;
• Harry Potter 8-Film Steelbook Box Set;
• GoPro HERO5 Black 4K Action Camera, and Best Buy Holiday Sweepstakes to attend the 2017 X Games;
• Razer Deathadder Chroma Elite Mouse and Goliathus Mouse Mat;
• South Park Character Figures 3-Pack; and
• Tumi Aston Wrap Folio for Surface Pro.