Fred’s December Sales Decrease 4.2 Percent
Discount retailer Fred’s Inc. said Thursday that revenue at stores open at least a year fell 4.2 percent last month as shoppers spent less money on fears about the economy.
The company also lowered its fourth-quarter earnings expectations, and its shares slipped in morning trading.
The December sales decrease was worse than Wall Street expected. Analysts, on average, expected a 1.5 percent decline, according to Thomson Reuters.
Revenue from stores open at least a year is considered a key gauge of a retailer’s health because it excludes results from stores recently opened or closed.
Fred’s said that its total sales for December fell 1 percent to $209.9 million. For the year, total sales rose 2 percent to $1.78 billion, but fell 1.4 percent in stores open a year.
The company said that it expects fourth-quarter earnings between 25 cents per share and 31 cents per share.
That’s lower than the 31 cents per share to 36 cents per share it predicted in November.
Shares of Fred’s fell 27 cents, or 2 percent, to $13.50 in morning trading Thursday.
CEO Bruce Efird said in a statement that customers cut spending of discretionary and weather-related items because of the economy. Despite the drop in sales, Efird said the company’s layaway program was a success and prescriptions in its pharmacy department rose.
In 2013, the Memphis-based company plans to increase the number of pharmacies it operates and add more auto and hardware products. The company also plans to open a “smaller drug and dollar store concept,” said Efird.
Fred’s operates 712 discount stores in the southeastern United States.
High Cotton Brewing Kicks Off Renovations
Plans are moving forward for High Cotton Brewing Co. LLC’s facility in Memphis’ Edge District.
A $133,000 building permit was filed with the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement for the renovation and repair of the existing building at 598 Monroe Ave. That includes “installation and brewery equipment, modification of building infrastructure to accommodate new equipment.”
The Class D, 8,778-square-foot warehouse was built in 1928 near Marshall Avenue and is owned by Philco Properties LLC, an entity associated with Massey’s Auto Parts Inc. in Millington.
High Cotton’s focus is small-batch ales that will be distributed to local bars and restaurants, as first reported by The Daily News last April.
The brewing company will join Boscos Brewing Co., Ghost River Brewing Co. and the recently announced Memphis Made Brewing Co. LLC in Cooper-Young in bringing locally crafted beers to the Memphis market.
High Cotton’s partners include Mike Lee, owner of Mid-South Malts; Brice Timmons, an attorney with Black McLaren Jones Ryland & Griffee PC; Ryan Staggs, an engineer with Memphis Light, Gas and Water Division; and Ross Avery, a pilot with United Airlines.
Norman Named New Memphis NAACP President
The Rev. Keith Norman, pastor of First Baptist Church-Broad, is the new president of the Memphis branch NAACP.
Norman succeeds Dr. Warner Dickerson in the post. Dickerson was president of the Memphis branch for 11 years, making him the longest serving president in the 95-year history of the branch.
Norman is a former chairman of the Shelby County Democratic Party.
The Memphis branch has produced numerous leaders of the national NAACP organization including the late Jesse Turner, who served for years as national treasurer and the late Benjamin Hooks who was national executive director.
It was also the foundation of the city’s civil rights movement in the civil rights era from the 1950s and through the 1970s.
The organization most recently was a visible presence and supporter as the administration of Memphis Mayor A C Wharton Jr. pursued the Tennessee Supreme Court decision that held photo library cards in Memphis are valid photo voter identification required under state law.
Madeleine Taylor remains as the Memphis branch’s executive director, a position of longer tenure with the person holding it traditionally working with the president on the day-to-day affairs of the organization.
IP Becomes Majority Shareholder in Olmuksa
International Paper Co. is majority shareholder of Olmuksa, a Turkish corrugated packaging company.
The Memphis-based company announced Thursday, Jan. 3, it acquired the shares of Sabanci Holding in Olmuksa for $56 million giving International Paper 87.5 percent of Olmuksa’s outstanding shares.
Sabanci is a joint venture partner with International Paper.
The market for corrugated packaging in Turkey is estimated to be the seventh largest in Europe.
Regions Bank Announces Financial Fitness Events
Every Friday this month, select Regions Bank locations across 16 states will host “financial fitness” events in branches covering topics like budgeting, borrowing, identity protection, investing and more.
As part of its company-wide commitment to financial education, Regions also is expanding its My GreenGuide online financial resource center to help people save, plan, and make smarter financial decisions. My GreenGuide is available at regions.com/advice and features tips, advice, articles, and calculators on financial topics.
More information about Financial Fitness Fridays, including a list of participating locations, is available at regionsbanknews.com/fridays.
Weekly Jobless Aid Applications Rise to 372K
More Americans sought unemployment benefits last week, though the winter holidays likely distorted the data for the second straight week.
The Labor Department said Thursday that weekly applications rose by 10,000 to a seasonally adjusted 372,000 in the week ended Dec. 29. The previous week’s total was revised higher.
Many state unemployment offices were closed this week for the New Year’s holiday and did not submit complete data for last week. As a result, the department relied on estimates for nine states. Two weeks ago, the department estimated 19 states because of Christmas closings.
In a typical week, the government estimates only one or two states.
The broader trend has been favorable. The four-week average, a less volatile measure, was little changed at 360,000. That’s only slightly above the previous week’s 359,750, which was the lowest in more than four years.
Weekly applications are a proxy for layoffs. They have mostly fluctuated this year between 360,000 and 390,000. At the same time, employers have added an average of 151,000 jobs a month in the first 11 months of 2012.
The government will release the December’s jobs report Friday. Economists forecast it will show employers added about 150,000 jobs last month, barely enough to lower the unemployment rate.
The number of people receiving benefits fell to 5.4 million in the week ended Dec. 15, the latest data available. That’s down about 70,000 from the previous week. The figure includes about 2.1 million people receiving emergency benefits paid for by the federal government. The White House and Congress agreed earlier this week to extend that program for another year.
Lowery Undecided About Future on City Council
The longest-serving member of the Memphis City Council said New Year’s Day that he hasn’t yet decided if he will run for a final four-year term of office in the 2015 city elections or let his current term be his last, leaving office in 2015.
But council member Myron Lowery told a group of 200 at his 22nd annual New Year’s Day Prayer Breakfast that whichever option he picks, his son, Michell Lowery, will probably run for the Super District 9 Position 3 seat Lowery now holds.
“I can’t be there forever,” Lowery said. “My days have got to come to a close. And when it does, I’m looking for my son to step in. It may not be in three years, son.”
The younger Lowery, who like his father has worked at FedEx Corp., has also worked in his father’s campaigns including chairing his father’s unsuccessful bid for mayor in the 2009 special election.
Lowery was first elected to the council in 1991 to an at-large seat on the body. When the at-large seats were eliminated in 1995, Lowery ran for and won the super district seat he currently holds. Because he was council chairman in 2009 when then-Mayor Willie Herenton resigned, Lowery served as mayor until the results of the special election were certified.
The terms of office that began a year ago started the clock on term limits of two consecutive terms approved by Memphis voters as a city charter amendment in 2008 for all 13 seats on the Memphis City Council as well as the Memphis mayor.
First State Bank Opening Memphis Location
First State Bank is opening a new Memphis location and has hired a new team to grow the customer base and develop a branch network here.
Steve Weaver is First State’s new regional bank president for the Memphis area. Ted Miller is city president, Dana Burkett is senior vice president/loan officer and Mark Graves is a loan officer. The new team will be at 5384 Poplar Ave. in the Hobson building across from the Mercedes-Benz of Memphis dealership.
That facility currently is being renovated for First State to be able to offer both consumer and commercial lending, five teller service areas, three drive-through lanes, mortgage lending and personal banking services.
The opening is set for early February.
Public Relations Society Honors Duncan Williams
The Memphis chapter of the Public Relations Society of America has named Duncan F. Williams, president of Duncan-Williams Inc., as its 2013 Communicator of The Year.
The award is given to an individual for gaining public awareness for an event or effort benefiting either the city of Memphis or a local civic or philanthropic organization.
One of the nominations the Awards Committee received for Williams came from Shelby County Mayor Mark H. Luttrell Jr., who will speak and present the award to Duncan at the PRSA Memphis January luncheon Wednesday, Jan. 9, at the University Club beginning at 11:45 a.m.
The Communicator of the Year award was established in 1976. Bud Dudley, founder of the AutoZone Liberty Bowl, was the first recipient. The list of honorees includes Herman Morris, Ron Terry, Cecil Humphreys, Fred P. Gattas, Olin Morris, D’Army Bailey, Judith Drescher, Gerry House, Dr. Scott Morris, Linn Sitler, Fred Jones and Molly Meisenheimer.
Construction Spending Declines 0.3 Percent
Spending on U.S. construction projects fell in November from October because a steep drop in volatile federal projects offset another gain in home building.
Construction spending dipped 0.3 percent in November, the Commerce Department said Wednesday. It was the first decline since March and followed a 0.7 percent increase in October, which was revised lower.
Total spending declined to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $866 billion. That is 16.1 percent above a 12-year low hit in February 2011. Even with the gain, the level of spending remained only about half of what’s considered healthy.
The November figures were dragged lower by a 5.5 percent decline in spending on federal government projects. Federal spending fluctuates sharply from month to month. In October, it rose 9.7 percent.
Spending on residential construction, however, has steadily increased over the past eight months and rose 0.4 percent in November.
Paul Ashworth, chief U.S. economist for Capital Economics, said the decline in construction spending was “nothing too much to worry about.”
Spending on commercial projects dropped 0.7 percent. Spending on office buildings, hotels and shopping centers declined. Overall government spending dipped 0.4 percent.
Manufacturing Expanded Slightly in December
U.S. manufacturing grew slightly last month and factory hiring increased. The modest gain suggests the economy entered the new year with some momentum.
The Institute for Supply Management said Wednesday that its index of manufacturing activity rose in December to 50.7. That’s up from a reading of 49.5 in November, which was the lowest reading since July 2009, one month after the recession ended.
A reading above 50 indicates growth, while a reading below 50 signals contraction. The ISM is a trade group of purchasing managers.
A measure of employment increased last month to 52.7. That’s up from 48.4 in November, which was the first time the employment gauge fell below 50 in three years.
Factories have cut jobs in three of the four months through November, according to government data. The jump in employment in the ISM survey suggests manufacturers may have stepped up hiring last month.
Still, a gauge of new orders was unchanged and production grew more slowly, the survey found. Manufacturers also cut back on stockpiles, a sign of concern about future demand.
“The trend in manufacturing remains weak,” Jim O’Sullivan, an economist at High Frequency Economics, said in a note to clients.
The closely watched manufacturing survey was completed before Congress reached a deal to avoid the “fiscal cliff.”
A gauge of export orders rose above 50 for the first time in six months, according to the ISM survey.
$4 Million Permit Filed For Regional Medical Center
Plans have been submitted for $4 million worth of capital improvements at the Regional Medical Center at Memphis.
A building permit application with the city-county Office of Construction Code Enforcement calls for interior demolition and infill of approximately 17,500 square feet of an existing floor at The MED, 877 Jefferson Ave.
Flintco Inc. is the contractor for the project. Upgrades include drywall, acoustical, flooring, mechanical, plumbing and electrical.
The MED, one of the nation’s three busiest trauma centers, is also undergoing a $20.7 million renovation and expansion of its emergency room, according to Memphis Medical Center literature. In addition, the hospital is renovating and building out 88,000 square feet in Turner Tower – a $30 million project that will add 10 inpatient rehab beds and create new outpatient ambulatory surgery unit by December.
The MED’s Downtown campus sees 16,000 inpatient visits, 50,000 emergency room visits and 130,000 outpatient visits each year. Rick Wagers, chief financial officer of The MED, recently told The Daily News that the hospital “would like to … replace the vast majority of our campus over a five- to 10-year period in order to make it more patient- and family-friendly.”
The many capital improvement projects already completed in the past two years at The MED include streetscape and parking lot improvements; renovation of the emergency department and waiting area; upgrades to security and trauma treatment rooms; conversion of all double bedrooms to single bedrooms; installation of robotics in the inpatient pharmacy; new roofing; and fresh internal and external signage.
Senate Approves Four TVA Board Members
The U.S. Senate has approved four new members to the board of directors of the Tennessee Valley Authority, which will go on to the president’s desk for his signature.
The Senate on Tuesday approved the nominations of C. Peter Mahurin, of Kentucky; Vera Lynn Evans, of Tennessee; Michael McWherter, of Tennessee; and Joe H. Ritch of Alabama to fill vacancies on the nine-member board. President Barack Obama made the nominations in September.
TVA Chairman Bill Sansom was quoted on the TVA’s Twitter account as saying he was looking forward to working with the new board members.
TVA provides electricity to 9 million people in Tennessee, Kentucky, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.
Leadership Memphis Starts College Help Campaign
Leadership Memphis has launched a citywide campaign to encourage high school seniors to attend college by helping them complete FAFSA – Free Application for Federal Student Aid – forms in January.
The campaign includes several hands-on “Fill out the FAFSA” sessions to be held from Jan. 10 through Jan. 27 at various locations around the city. The sessions are designed for students and parents who want help completing the forms.
The campaign is made possible by the Memphis Talent Dividend, one of several Leadership Memphis action initiatives that focus on increasing college attainment among students in the Memphis area. The “Fill out the FAFSA” campaign is being held in partnership with the Urban Youth Initiative Inc.
For more information, contact program coordinator Jacqueline Oselen at 278-0016 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or contact Jeanette McKinley-Bowen with the Urban Youth Initiative Inc. at Jeanette@uyimemphis.org or 725-3127.
The sessions begin Jan. 10 at the Whitehaven Library Career Coach Mobile Unit from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
Renovation Unveiled At Greek Orthodox Church
Parishioners of Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church, 573 N. Highland St., were to cut the ribbon New Year’s Eve on a renovated fellowship hall.
The hall has been hidden from parishioners during the renovation, which include Sunday school rooms, the youth room and the church’s administrative offices.
The hall itself will be named in honor of Harry and Margaret Cotros, founding members of the church. They were the parents of Charles Cotros, a lifelong member of the church who contributed to the renovation effort, and Loretta Taras and Elaine Taras.
Jobless Benefit Rolls Drop 7 Percent With New Rule
About 7 percent of Tennesseans previously receiving jobless benefits have been dropped for failing to verify that they were searching for work.
That’s according to an audit by the Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
New rules that went into effect on Sept. 1 require Tennesseans receiving jobless benefits to document at least three job searches a week.
In the first seven weeks of enforcing the new law, random audits of 6,164 people found that 402 failed to verify their weekly job searches. They lost their benefits, at least for that week. Since then, audits of another 3,147 recipients found 226 failed to meet the requirements.
State Sen. Jack Johnson was a sponsor of the bill. The Franklin Republican said the requirements already have saved the state’s Unemployment Insurance fund more than $100,000, helping the employers who pay for the program.
Job searches can include completing job applications or interviews or mailing resumes to employers. Tennessee pays a maximum of $275 a week for those who lost a job through no fault of their own.
MAAR Members Honored at End-of-Year Luncheon
The Memphis Area Association of Realtors named the recipients of its 2012 awards at its year-end luncheon Dec. 19 at the Hilton Memphis.
Leon Dickson Sr. of BenchMark at Southwind LLC was named 2012 Realtor of the Year.
Lewis Marshall of Crye-Leike Inc. Realtors was named 2012 Realtor-Associate of the Year.
The 2012 Affiliate of the Year honor went to Tammie Ledford of SecureWorx Construction.
Irvin Skopp of Belz Enterprises received the Outstanding Service Award.
Carol Lott, MAAR’s 2012 president, gave a Presidential Award to Greg Glosson of Fast Track Realty.
Pink Palace Prepares Exhibit on Crafts Fair
The Memphis Pink Palace museum is preparing an exhibit on the 40-year old crafts fair that is an annual fundraiser for the city-operated museum.
Between Feb. 4 and Feb. 28, the museum is accepting images and applications from any craftsmen who had booths or worked in booths at any of the annual crafts fairs for the museum.
Submissions from the February time period are the only ones that will be considered for the exhibit, which is scheduled to run from May 11 to Sept. 29. The display will be a juried exhibit of craftwork.
The crafts fair was originally held on the front lawn of the Pink Palace Museum on Central Avenue but quickly outgrew that space and is currently held at Audubon Park.
Applications and rules for submissions can be found at the museum’s website, www.memphismuseums.org.
Avery Park Apartments Sell for $5.2 Million
Avery Park, a 231-unit apartment community built in 1971 in Northeast Shelby County, sold on Dec. 19 for $5.2 million, or $22,511 per unit.
Blake Pera and Tommy Bronson III with CB Richard Ellis Memphis’ Memphis Multifamily Division represented California-based US Housing Partners VII in the sale to a Utah buyer.