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  1. Can Richard Baker reinvent The Bay? MARINA STRAUSS From Monday's Globe and Mail NEW YORK — Richard Baker, the new owner of retailer Hudson's Bay Co.,mingled with the New York fashion elite as the lights dimmed for designer Peter Som's recent show, offering opinions and taking a close look at the latest in skirts and dresses. It's a stark contrast to previous HBC owner Jerry Zucker, who HBC insiders had a hard time picturing with fashionistas in New York. But Mr. Baker, who made his name in real estate, knows it is time for a new approach at the struggling retailer. “As an entrepreneur I'm not necessarily fixated on how things were done in the past,” says Mr. Baker. “We function and we think much more like a specialty retailer rather than a department store retailer. A specialty retailer is much more nimble and willing to adjust to the environment than department stores, historically. Department stores, frankly, haven't changed a whole lot in 100 years.” His Purchase, N.Y.-based equity firm, NRDC Equity Partners, has snapped up a string of dusty retailers, among them HBC's underperforming Bay and Zellers. The Bay operates in the department store sector which is on the wane, squeezed for years by specialty and discount chains. Zellers struggles in a low-priced arena dominated by behemoth Wal-Mart Canada Corp. The need for a makeover is clear: The Bay's sales per square foot are estimated at merely $142, and Zellers', $149 – a fraction of the estimated $480 at Wal-Mart Canada. At Lord & Taylor, which also lags some of its key U.S. rivals in productivity, Mr. Baker has had some success in its efforts to return to its high end Americana roots. But the 47-store chain is feeling the pinch of tight-fisted consumers and, late last month, he unveiled a shakeup at the top ranks of his firm's $8-billion (U.S.) a year retail businesses to try to shave costs. Still, he is pouring money into the chains in other ways, quickly distinguishing himself from Mr. Zucker, who died last spring. While the former owner had named himself CEO despite his lack of merchandising experience, the new owner has handpicked a team of seasoned merchants at the senior levels of his retailers. And while Mr. Zucker shunned publicity and focused on more mundane, although critical, matters, such as technology to track customer demand, Mr. Baker enjoys the limelight. Now he is betting on the fragile fashion sector as an engine of growth. Last fall he set up Creative Design Studios (CDS) to develop designer lines for Lord & Taylor, now, HBC and, eventually, retailers around the world. Mr. Baker is “looking at every one of the properties with a different viewpoint,” says Walter Loeb, a former member of HBC's board of directors and a consultant at Loeb Associates in New York. “He has new ideas. He doesn't want to keep Hudson's Bay in its present form.” Nevertheless, “this team has taken over a not particularly healthy business,” says Marvin Traub, a former executive at Bloomingdale's who runs consultancy Marvin Traub Associates in New York. “They know and understand the challenges. It will take some time to fix them.” What Mr. Baker looks for in retailers is faded brands that have the potential to be revived. Early this year, NRDC acquired Fortunoff, an insolvent jewellery and home décor chain. The synergies among NRDC's various retailers are tremendous, says Gilbert Harrison, chairman of New York investment bank Financo Inc., which advises Mr. Baker. So is the value of the real estate. At HBC, it is estimated to be worth $1.2-billion, according to industry insiders. That's just a little more than the equivalent purchase price of the retailer itself. Lord & Taylor's real estate was valued at $1.7-billion (U.S.) when Mr. Baker acquired the company in 2006 – about $500-million more than he bought it for. “Initially I thought, good luck,” says Mr. Gilbert. “He's bought this in one of the most difficult retail environments that we've seen for 20 or 30 years. … “But he's protected his downside because the basic real estate values of Lord & Taylor and, now Hudson's Bay, certainly help prevent tragedy.” Mr. Baker likes to tell the story of buying Lord & Taylor for its real estate, and then on the way to signing the deal noticed how well the stores were performing. Like most other U.S. retailers, Lord & Taylor has seen business slow down recently. But its transformation to appeal to the well heeled had begun even before Mr. Baker arrived. It had dropped an array of tired brands, such as Tommy Hilfiger and Nautica, and picked up trendier labels, among them Coach and Tracy Reese. Mr. Baker encouraged the strategy of expanding and upgrading higher margin designer handbags and footwear. Ditto for denim wear and funky styles in the women's “contemporary” section under hot labels such as Free People and Diesel. “My job is to understand that we need to get the best brands in the store.” But he also saw the opportunity to bolster margins by stocking affordable lines in the form of CDS brands, with a focus now on Black Brown 1826 men's wear line. “I thought there was a void in the market for exactly the kind of clothes that my friends and I wear, at a right price. Why should we pay $150 for a dress shirt?” he asks, holding up one for $69. Now Mr. Baker wants to borrow a leaf from the Lord & Taylor playbook for HBC. He wants to introduce better quality products with higher margins, and plans to add his design studio merchandise to the stores early next year. Besides the details, he sees a whole new concept for the big Bay department stores. It would entail shrinking the Bay, possibly introducing Lord & Taylor within the stores, and adding Zellers in the basement and Fortunoff jewellery departments upstairs, with office space at the top. Lord & Taylor would serve to fill a gap in the retail landscape between the Bay and carriage trade Holt Renfrew, he says. For discounter Zellers, he seems to take inspiration from Target Corp., the fashionable U.S. discounter, by putting more focus on branded apparel. But he's not averse to selling parts of the business, or real estate, if the right offer came along either. “We're always available to sell things at the right price, or buy things at the right price.”
  2. La Compagnie de la Baie d'Hudson (HBC) confirme l'embauche de Bonnie Brooks aux postes de présidente et chef de la direction des magasins La Baie. Pour en lire plus...
  3. HBC sort le couperet à Lachine 12 novembre 2009 | 14h55 Mise à jour: 12 novembre 2009 | 18h17 Mathieu Lavallée et Olivier Bourque Argent Le détaillant HBC, maison mère des magasins La Baie et Zellers, décide de fermer boutique à Lachine. Argent a appris que l’entreprise va fermer son centre de distribution du Sud-Ouest de l’île de Montréal le 5 février prochain. L’entreprise élimine du même coup au moins 150 emplois de manutentionnaires et employés de bureau. Le syndicat a confirmé cette information à Argent en après-midi. Ce centre de Lachine est celui qui assure la distribution des articles vendus aux magasins La Baie, Zellers et Déco Découverte du Québec et des Maritimes. C’est maintenant de Toronto que seront acheminés les produits. Le syndicat va se rendre à Toronto d’ici peu de temps afin «de sauver les emplois du Québec». «Nous ne demandons pas d'indemnités à l'heure actuelle à la direction, mais bien de garder le centre de Lachine ouvert», a souligné Stéphane Lacroix, porte-parole de Teamster Canada. Selon lui, l'annonce de la direction aux employés a été une surprise totale. «Les employés sont sous le choc car il n'y a pas eu de signes avant-coureurs. Juste avant Noël, inutile de vous dire qu'il s'agit d'une très mauvaise nouvelle», déplore M. Lacroix. Le syndicat et la direction allaient même amorcer la négociation du contrat de travail des employés qui tombe à échéance en 2010. Le syndicat rappelle qu'à la même époque l'an dernier, HBC avait éliminé des postes de téléphonistes - environ une trentaine. HBC veut rationnaliser ses activités Dans une communication écrite, HBC souligne que cette décision «permet à la compagnie de consolider et de rationaliser ses activités». L'entreprise souligne qu'elle va aider à la transition des employés en vue d'explorer les diverses options possibles «notamment les indemnités de cessation d'emploi et l'aide à la recherche d'emploi». La Compagnie de la Baie d'Hudson affirme qu'elle continue toutefois d'exploiter un entrepôt/centre de distribution à Pointe-Claire. Avec la disparition du centre de Montréal, HBC a maintenant seulement deux grandes centres de distribution, un à Toronto et l'autre à Vancouver.
  4. La Baie vendrait son édifice montréalais pour mieux rénover 14 août 2009 | 10h30 ARGENT Michel Munger Argent L'éventuelle vente du principal édifice montréalais de La Baie (HBC) pourrait bien servir à mieux investir dans des rénovations et ses activités commerciales. C'est en effet ce qu'affirme, Melissa Cable, relationniste pour la firme Edelman et porte-parole pour HBC, en réponse aux questions posées par Argent. Rappelons que le quotidien Globe and Mail révélait hier que HBC a confié à une filiale de courtage de Brookfield Properties le dossier de son immeuble situé au 585, rue Sainte-Catherine Ouest. «De temps en temps, dit Mme Cable, HBC vend et achète des immeubles. Au cours de la dernière année, la compagnie a travaillé avec Brookfield Properties sur la possibilité de vendre l'édifice montréalais et de louer les locaux pour un éventuel redéveloppement et une rénovation, avec le magasin La Baie qui occuperait une grande partie de l'édifice.» Melissa Cable ajoute toutefois qu'«aucune transaction n'a eu lieu relativement à ce projet». Denis Couture, vice-président Affaires corporatives et Affaires internationales chez Brookfield à Toronto, a dit que la politique de la filiale de courtage était de ne pas commenter les éventuelles transactions. Haut de neuf étages et bâti en 1945, l'édifice de La Baie est bien connu des Montréalais. Selon le role d'évaluation de la Ville de Montréal, sa valeur s'élève à 39,9 M$.
  5. NRDC Equity Partners détient déjà 20% de La Baie, une participation acquise en 2006. Le fonds avait des liens étroits avec Jerry Zucker, défunt propriétaire de HBC. Pour en lire plus...
  6. Le propriétaire de Lord & Taylor Une firme de New York pourrait acquérir La Baie d'Hudson http://argent.canoe.com/lca/infos/canada/archives/2008/07/20080710-075109.html ARGENT Le propriétaire de Lord & Taylor a entamé des discussions en vue d'acquérir la Compagnie de la Baie d'Hudson, une transaction qui, selon certaines sources, pourrait permettre à la chaîne de magasins à rayons américaine de s'implanter au Canada. La firme NRDC Equity Partners of Purchase, de New York, qui possède la chaîne de 47 magasins aux États-Unis, détient déjà une participation de 20% dans HBC, à qui appartient les magasins La Baie, Zellers, Home Outfitters. Le chef de la direction de NRDC, Richard Baker, a mentionné lors d'une conférence récente qu'il envisageait d'ouvrir des magasins à l'extérieur des États-Unis et que le Canada figurait parmi les pays considérés. «Cet acheteur potentiel m'a semblé très déterminé à aller de l'avant», a dit une source informée de discussions récentes avec HBC. Ni M. Baker ni les dirigeants de HBC n'ont voulu commenter l'information mercredi. La destinée de HBC repose entre les mains de la famille de Jerry Zucker, un milliardaire américain qui a acheté le détaillant canadien pour 1,1 milliard de dollars en 2006, mais qui est décédé en avril. Sa veuve, Anita Zucker, a par la suite pris les commandes de l'entreprise. Depuis, la famille a dit vouloir continuer d'exploiter la compagnie, fondée en 1670, ce qui n'a pas empêché plusieurs observateurs de l'industrie de croire qu'elle pourrait changer d'idée. Si elle se concrétise, l'acquisition de HBC par le propriétaire de Lord & Taylor consacrerait le mariage de deux des plus anciens acteurs dans le domaine des chaînes de magasins généralistes. Dans la dernière décennie, cette industrie a été durement touché par la concurrence féroce des magasins spécialisés et des chaînes à bas prix comme Wal-Mart. De leur côté, tant HBC que Lord & Taylor déploient tous deux beaucoup d'efforts depuis environ deux ans afin de rajeunir leur image. Mercredi, des sources citées par le site web Women's Wear Daily affirmaient que la firme NRDC était déterminée à acquérir HBC.
  7. NRDC Equity buys Hudson's Bay MARINA STRAUSS Globe and Mail Update July 16, 2008 at 1:32 PM EDT Upscale U.S. department store chain Lord & Taylor is about set up shop in Canada. The company that owns Lord & Taylor bought Hudson's Bay Co. on Wednesday and will convert up to 15 of its key Bay department stores to the U.S. retailer's name. The move marries the two oldest department store retailers in North America, and will create an $8-billion (U.S.) merchandising powerhouse for the new buyer, NRDC Equity Partners of Purchase, N.Y. It will combine HBC's Bay, Zellers, Home Outfitters and Fields chains with NRDC's Lord & Taylor and Fortunoff, the jewellery and home decor chain. “By acquiring Hudson's Bay Co. along with previous acquisitions Lord & Taylor and Fortunoff, we will have an unprecedented opportunity to recreate the retail landscape in North America,” said Richard Baker, chief executive officer of NRDC. The newly expanded holding company will be called Hudson's Bay Trading Co. “Enormous potential exists by upgrading the offerings at both the Bay and Zellers and by bringing Lord & Taylor, Fortunoff and CDS into the mix.” CDS, or Creative Design Studios, produces fashion lines. The deal, for an undisclosed amount, comes just three months after the death of Jerry Zucker, the South Carolina businessman who acquired HBC in early 2006 for $1.1-billion and took it private. Mr. Zucker began to make changes at the chains, moving the Bay more upscale and adding new brands to the mix, while renovating Zellers stores and expanding Fields. Last summer, he appointed his chief lieutenant, Robert Johnston, as president of HBC. He was promoted to chief executive officer in April and succeeded Mr. Zucker on his death. Now Mr. Baker, who becomes the 38th governor, or chairman, of HBC, is investing $500-million into the combined new company and is set to put his own stamp on the retailer. Mr. Baker is already familiar with HBC, having sat on its board of directors since 2006. NRDC owns what is believed to be about 20 per cent of HBC. He said in a statement he plans to convert the Bay's most high-profile 10 to 15 stores to Lord & Taylor. It's a high-end U.S. fashion department store chain that was bought by Mr. Baker's holding company in 2006 and has since enjoyed a turnaround under his watch. It has also moved to more high-end fashions after closing some of its weaker outlets, leaving it with 47 stores. HBC has about 580 outlets in all. Lord & Taylor will serve to fill a gap in the Canadian retail landscape between the Bay and the carriage trade Holt Renfrew, Mr. Baker said. He wants to put greater focus on branded apparel at discounter Zellers, he said. He plans to improve its customer service and, in the future, roll out new 125,000-square-foot prototype stores. He will also bring Fortunoff to Canada, both as standalone stores and within the Bay. And he wants to expand NRDC's Creative Design Studios, selling its branded collections throughout North America and internationally. Its brands include Peter Som's eponymous collection as well as the Kate http://www.reportonbusiness.com/servlet/story/RTGAM.20080716.whbcstaff0716/BNStory/Business/home
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