Europe, Middle East and Africa President, Hotel Operations Asia Pacific Including the 14 properties discussed above, currently we have 21 new projects under construction or in advanced stages of development in seven additional countries, and many more opportunities in the pipeline. We also continue to seek out opportunities to rebrand existing hotels, and are ready to act as these situations arise.
Forbes August 29, No one could blame Sears for closing stores that are losing money. But Heidi Wood, who used to run three Sears Hometown stores in Oregon, says the company pulled the plug on her stores even though they were profitable.
Now she and the company are suing each other. One hundred and thirty of them were Outlet stores, which sell dinged, reconditioned, and overstock big appliances and lawn equipment. Most of the remainder were under the Hometown brand, modest-size stores located in rural markets that sell first-quality Kenmore, Craftsman, DieHard and other goods.
In the first quarter, the company opened 3 stores and closed 21 overall, and it plans to have shuttered "underperforming" locations by the end of the first half.
Over the last few years, Hometown and Outlets has been improving its margins despite falling sales by slashing its costs.
The problem with closing Hometown stores is that most are owned not by the company but by local franchisees who sell products, most of which come from Sears, on consignment. Some of these small entrepreneurs are not going quietly.
Hometown and Outlet is a publicly traded company spun off in from its perpetually ailing mother ship, Sears Holdings Corp. Lampert, a protege of the late legendary Texas dealmaker Richard Rainwater, had large early successes as a hedge fund manager, particularly with investments in parts retailer AutoZone and car dealership AutoNation.
On his watch, though, Sears, which Lampert merged with then-bankrupt Kmart inhas fallen into what looks like a death spiral. Along the way Lampert has reengineered Sears financially with a series of moves that have included large loans to the company from his hedge fund, ESL Investments.
Sears has said those deals were about providing the company with needed cash while it tries to adapt to a retail world turned upside down by Amazon.
Back in he came in at on the Forbes before dropping off the list the following year. In an email to Forbes, a spokesperson for Sears Hometown and Outlet said company management "are not able to proceed with an article about their company if the article also contains information and interviews about Sears Holdings and Eddie Lampert, solely because the two companies are completely separate entities, and independent public companies.
Whatever the strategic logic for the store closings, the economic pain has fallen on the people who own them. Late this spring, Heidi Wood says, a Hometown and Outlet regional manager called her and asked her to turn her stores over to the company.
Soon after, Hometown audited her books and, soon after that, cancelled her contract, citing a list of irregularities.
Now unable to make her lease payments, Wood appealed to her Prineville landlord, who changed the locks on the store to keep Hometown and Outlet from claiming its inventory until the matter of who was going to take over the lease could be resolved.
In July Wood countersued for breach of contract and denied she cheated the company. In a statement to Forbes, Sears Hometown and Outlet said, "From time to time some of our dealers choose not to live up to their contractual obligations with us.
When that happens we notify them of the defaults under their dealer agreements, we give them time to fix the defaults if fixes are feasible, and we seek to help them if they want our assistance.
If a dealer does not fix the defaults and the dealer agreement gives us the right to terminate the agreement, we will take that action. Garden says Hometown and Outlet assured him that the dealer had been a top performer with her two other Hometown stores.
We think the rent is too high. Mark Cohen says he hears regularly from angry Hometown dealers looking to vent. He says they complain that Hometown and Outlet had been cutting their commissions for years and requiring them to hold an increasing number of sales at prices too low for dealers to make money.
After filing bankruptcy at the end of last year, Cliff Phillips, who had owned three Hometown stores in Texas, emailed management a letter declaring: Owners are treated like indentured servants.
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