Business Briefs – February 8, 2019

Bankruptcy Judge Gives Sears Another Chance

NEW YORK (AP) – A bankruptcy judge has blessed a $5.2 billion plan by Sears chairman and biggest shareholder Eddie Lampert to keep the iconic business going. The approval means roughly 425 stores and 45,000 jobs will be preserved. Lampert’s bid through his hedge fund overcame opposition from a group of creditors, including mall owners and suppliers, that tried to block the sale and pushed hard for liquidation.

Not So Fast: Some Restaurants Resist Third-Party Delivery

NEW YORK (AP) – Food delivery services like Uber Eats and Grubhub are taking off like a rocket. But some restaurants aren’t on board. Jimmy John’s sandwich chain is launching a national ad campaign this week promising never to use third-party delivery. But others are doubling-down on it. Starbucks recently announced it’s expanding delivery to more U.S. stores through Uber Eats.

20 Indicted in Multimillion-Dollar Online Fraud Scheme

WASHINGTON (AP) – Federal prosecutors have indicted 20 people in a multimillion-dollar international online fraud scheme. The case stems from a lengthy investigation out of Kentucky led by Secret Service agents. The scheme unfolded on websites like Craigslist and eBay, and the fraudsters would post false ads for expensive items like cars that didn’t exist. The suspects were based mostly in Alexandria, Romania, and laundered the money using cryptocurrency.

U.S. Consumer Borrowing Tops $4 Trillion for First Time

WASHINGTON (AP) – Consumer borrowing rose at a slower pace in December but even the smaller gain pushed total borrowing to a new record above $4 trillion for the first time. The Federal Reserve says borrowing increased by $16.6 billion in December after a $22.4 billion advance in November. The December increase nudged the total up to a record $4.01 trillion.

J.C. Penney Pulls Plug on Previous CEO’s Home Appliance Strategy

(The Dallas Morning News) – J.C. Penney is exiting the home appliance business Feb. 28 and may reduce store space in the process.

The decision by CEO Jill Soltau unravels a major initiative started by her predecessor Marvin Ellison, who left Penney last May to become CEO at Lowe’s home improvement chain.

By removing appliances from 600 home departments, Penney said in a statement that it expects “to better meet customer expectations, improve financial performance and drive profitable growth.”

The home department reorganization involves more than washing machines and refrigerators.

Furniture, which is now in 105 stores, will only be available on jcp.com and some stores in Puerto Rico. Mattress departments, which were also added and reconfigured with the appliance rollout, will remain in 450 stores and online, said Penney spokeswoman Daphne Avila.

Ivanka Trump Project Seeks to Help Women in Developing World

WASHINGTON (AP) – Ivanka Trump has launched a White House effort aimed at helping 50 million women in the developing world get ahead economically over the next six years. The White House on Thursday unveiled the Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative, a government-wide project led by the senior adviser and daughter to President Donald Trump. The president called it a “historic step” and signed a national security memorandum to officially launch the effort.

Survey: More Than Half of U.S. Retailers Said They Are Just Surviving

(The Dallas Morning News) – Generally, retailers are considered an optimistic bunch, but a new survey has revealed some sobering results about the opportunities they see ahead or the lack of them.

More than half, or 54 percent, of traditional retailers say their businesses are just surviving as they head into 2019, according to the survey by accounting firm BDO of big box, department stores, discount stores and specialty retailers.

BDO’s survey of 300 c-suite executives found two camps: “survivors” who report being stable and breaking even, and the “thrivers,” who identify as profitable and maintain they are experiencing robust growth.

“The majority of retailers are stuck in survival mode,” said Natalie Kotlyar, a national leader of BDO’s consumer products practice in a report released Wednesday. “Playing catch-up in perpetuity is preventing retailers from seizing new opportunities and leapfrogging the competition.”