business news in context, analysis with attitude

...with brief, occasional, italicized and sometimes gratuitous commentary…

• The Wall Street Journal reports that Toys R Us has already begun publishing its holiday toy list, hoping that it can prove that "there’s viable room for it to exist and win as a specialty toy retailer, as other specialty chains from Best Buy to Barnes & Noble= also guard their respective foothold against rivals from Wal-Mart to Amazon."

According to the story, Toys R Us has "significantly increased consumer research, " is reducing the number of promotions it offers, and also will offer curated sections near the front of stores that feature hot items.

The story says that "stores also have been remodeled to make them brighter and cleaner, while product shipments were added to increase in-stock level. Store managers have been given the authority to resolve issues without going through headquarters and in-house call centers were installed to fix complex customer service issues instead of previously relying on a third party. Checkout times both in-stores and online has been reduced. Clear signs have been placed throughout stores marking where things are and overhead signs amplify its price matching guarantees."

I'd rather have a colonoscopy than go to a Toys R Us, so they have a long way to go in order to get disenchanted customers to walk back in its doors. Making it harder is the ultimate convenience of shopping online, and the fact that the competition is moving forward as well.

• The Chicago Tribune reports that "troubled electronics retailer RadioShack Corp , whose shares swung wildly on Wednesday, is being advised by a restructuring attorney at law firm Jones Day as it tries to strike a deal with creditors to close stores while averting bankruptcy, two people close to the matter told Reuters."

The question that needs to be resolved is whether the company would be better served by a bankruptcy that would allow it to hit the reset button … though it seems to me that the bigger problem is finding a way to make the stores that remain relevant and vibrant to consumers. That won't be easy, and won't happen overnight … but RadioShack cannot afford for it to take very long.

• Citing $100 million debt and "fierce competition" and "compressed margins," Associated Wholesalers and its White Rose division have filed for bankruptcy, with plans to sell its assets. The company said it it plans to hold an auction with C&S Wholesale Grocers Inc. as the lead "stalking horse" bidder.
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