These 5 Retailers Are in Desperate Need of a Strong Holiday Shopping Season

The holidays are just around the corner.

For e-tailers such as Amazon and big-box names like Walmart, it’s an opportunity to introduce revamped initiatives, experiment with new technology and display a dedicated push toward experiential retail. But for ailing businesses, the biggest shopping season of the year could mark a pivotal moment — one that can make or break a company.

Whether they’re looking for a revival or on the brink of bankruptcy, here are the retailers facing increased pressure to deliver solid results this quarter.

Dillard’s

The department store chain saw shares tumble after posting third-quarter earnings that fell short of Wall Street estimates. With inventory up 4 percent from the same period last year, Dillard’s is entering the holiday season with the continued expectation of significant markdowns and discounts.

“While we are encouraged by our 3 percent comparable sales performance, this was a disappointing quarter, as markdowns weighed heavily on gross margin, particularly in the first month,” CEO William Dillard said in a statement. “However, operating performance improved as the quarter progressed and sales turned positive.”

This year, the Little Rock, Ark.-based retailer also bid adieu to industry veteran Joe Brennan, who most recently held the position of VP of shoes following a 33-year tenure at the company.

Hudson’s Bay Co.

The past year has been a whirlwind for Hudson’s Bay Co., which reported weaker-than-expected sales at Lord & Taylor and Saks Off Fifth in the second quarter.

The latter has struggled to draw in customers, while the former, a historic department store chain, is saying goodbye to its storied Fifth Avenue address — a location it has called home for more than a century. As it hosts a final closing sale to clear out inventory, Lord & Taylor continues to work on the expansion of its digital business after launching its flagship on Walmart.com this summer.

Now, with the appointment of Helena Foulkes as its new CEO, the company is set to face even more change. The CVS veteran (and first female chief at HBC) tapped Stitch Fix executive Vanessa LeFebvre as Lord & Taylor’s new president and recently announced plans to shed 10 of the retailer’s stores through 2019. She gave two of her former CVS colleagues top roles at the company. And within the first three months of her leadership, HBC sold off-price luxury goods e-tailer Gilt to flash-sale site Rue La La as well as about half its stake in its European retail operations.

“With the right leadership team now in place, our banners are empowered to develop and implement strategies that will best drive their businesses forward,” Foulkes said during the latest earnings announcement.

J.C. Penney

New season, new leadership: Former Jo-Ann Stores CEO Jill Soltau is preparing for her first holiday season at J.C. Penney’s helm.

The beleaguered retailer posted disappointing third-quarter earnings and lowered its outlook for the rest of the year shortly after the departure of CEO Marvin Ellison, who took the top post at home improvement chain Lowe’s in May. Investors indicated they had lost hope in the department store chain’s ability to stage a comeback, with the company’s stock dropping below 25 percent to nearly $2 after the exit announcement.

In a bid to save its business, the Plano, Texas-based Penney is shutting down underperforming stores and reducing inventory levels. It has also put emphasis on omnichannel offerings, including buy online, pick up in store (BOPIS), as well as brought in major brands like Nike to better position its product mix.

Despite the silver lining, the company’s management said it expects comparable sales for the year to remain flat, with adjusted losses per share in the range of 80 cents to $1.

Neiman Marcus

Carrying a debt burden of $5 billion, of which $2.8 billion is due in October 2020, the high-end department store chain has employed investment banking firm Lazard Ltd. to assist with its finances. The restructuring of this liability — partly attributed to its sale in 2013 to private equity firms Ares Management LLC and the Canada Pension Plan Investment Board — is expected in the next year.

But the company appears to be on the right track to sales recovery. In September, Neiman Marcus, which also owns Fifth Avenue mainstay Bergdorf Goodman and luxury e-commerce site MyTheresa, reported increasing sales for the fourth straight quarter. It cut its losses to $75.3 million, down from $366.3 million in the same period last year.

“As we look to the future, we are making long-term investments in technology-, supply-chain- and new-customer-centric capabilities that will begin to benefit the business in fiscal 2020 and beyond,” CEO Geoffroy van Raemdonck said during the results announcement.

Sears

The 125-year-old company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in mid-October.

At its peak, Sears had more than 300,000 employees and nearly 3,500 stores. However, mounting digital competition, a shift from brick-and-mortar and crucial missteps in the past several years led the storied retailer to close upwards of 1,700 locations across the country.

As CEO Eddie Lampert continues to seek profitability, which the company hasn’t seen since 2010, Sears is shuttering the doors of roughly 190 of its 690 surviving stores. It remains at risk of total liquidation, pending the outcome of new financing and a restructuring deal with creditors.

The Hoffman Estates, Ill.-based chain received a $300 million loan from Wall Street investors to continue paying its workers as it stays open through the holiday season, but after that, Sears’ future is doubtful.

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