Robb & Stucky, the high-end furniture retail chain, has filed for a Chapter 11 bankruptcy that promises to lead to store closings and the possible sale of the 96-year-old company.
Which of the Fort Myers chain's 20 stores face closing remains up in the air, but Kevin Regan, the company's chief restructuring officer, says in a court filing that some closings are likely.
In one sign of trouble, the company's prominent store in a former Lord & Taylor department store in International Plaza in Tampa has been used since the holidays for an ongoing clearance sale of inventory gathered from several Florida stores.
Furniture stores get up to half their business from new home sales, so the 2007 Florida home-building industry crash made for tough times among home furnishings stores. In addition to stagnant growth markets in Florida, Robb & Stucky has big stores in Las Vegas and Scottsdale, Ariz., where home construction also is in a hurt locker. With an average transaction of $6,000 — six times the industry average — Robb & Stucky has been confronted with a bigger challenge than mainstream rivals.
How bad is it? Robb & Stucky generated sales of $139.7 million in the fiscal year that ended June 30. That's about half the $273.7 million of 2006. Meantime, annual operating income plunged from $11.6 million in 2006 to a loss of $12.3 million in 2010 despite four store closings.
The company secured financing to remain in business, but plans to consider offers to sell more of itself to new investors in a stalking horse auction, one in which an undisclosed bid from Hudson Capital will be used to weigh other offers.
Separately, Robb & Stucky filed a WARN mass layoff notice with the state Monday indicating it was cutting 178 jobs.
The Gap will move from WestShore to International
The Gap will end a long run in WestShore Plaza in June by moving into new lower-level space a mile away in International Plaza.
It's part of an ongoing reshuffling among the big area malls adjusting store sizes to demand and to fill empty spaces. Gap's corporate sibling Old Navy at WestShore, for example, is upgrading to the chain's new look while shrinking its space by a fifth to 20,000 square feet. Meantime, WestShore fills an empty spot near P.F. Chang's with a trendy Pinkberry frozen yogurt stand — the first in the region — that opens in March.
At IP, the Gap will offer a three-in-one store that includes GapKids and GapBaby in addition to the chain's latest prototype.
Meantime, IP also recently opened Zeades, (pronounced Ze-ah-dez), a luxury jeweler from Monte Carlo next to Neiman Marcus.
And in April, Destination Motherhood opens as a much larger version maternity store from the owners of A Pea in the Pod and Motherhood Maternity. The new store, which takes over where Harry & David used to be plus space never occupied before, will feature a juice bar, kids' play area and TV lounge for husbands.
Consumers' top fear is now rising prices
For the first time since the recession, fears of rising prices have shoved unemployment/job security aside as consumers' top economic concern.
That's from fresh surveys compiled by comScore, which found higher prices as the top concern among 42 percent of shoppers, enough to surge past 36 percent fretting about jobs. Worries about real estate value slipped to 11 percent and financial markets dropped to 7 percent.
"It's largely driven by gas prices" as retailers begin passing on more of rising commodities prices of food and raw cotton, said Gian Fulgoni, chairman of comScore. "But job security remains a major concern."
Mark Albright can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8252.