Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Venator Continues to Struggle to Survive

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Venator Continues to Struggle to Survive

Article excerpt

NEW YORK (AP) -- Almost a year ago, Woolworth set out on an ambitious mission to shed its name and five-and-dime image, and build itself into a giant sporting goods retailer.

But few are applauding what has happened since. Now known as Venator, its stock is down almost 83 percent in the past year, and its sales and profits continue to sink amid a slowdown in athletic footwear and clothing businesses.

Some analysts are even beginning to speculate about the company's fate. "This is a hard ship to turn around," said Kurt Barnard, a retail consultant who runs Barnard's Retail Trend Report in Upper Montclair, N.J. "Venator doesn't seem to have a clue what to do with itself." It's been a tough few years for Venator, which has attempted to boost profits by reducing costs and closing more than 4,000 stores - - including the entire chain of Woolworth five-and-dimes and all of its Kinney Shoe stores. Its sporting goods chains now include Foot Locker, Lady Foot Locker, Kids Foot Locker, Champs Sports and Colorado. It also operates Afterthoughts, an accessories stores, and San Francisco Music Box, which sells music boxes and giftware. Despite its efforts to revive the business, Venator continues to struggle. Last month, Standard & Poor's dropped the company's credit rating to "junk" status, and on Wednesday, Venator reported disappointing fourth quarter and year-end earnings. For the quarter ended Jan. 30, Venator's net income fell 67 percent to $37 million, or 27 cents a share, compared with $115 million, or 85 cents a share a year ago. Sales also fell, dropping 6 percent to $1.33 billion. For the year, it lost $113 million, or $1 a share, compared with a loss of $10 million, or 7 cents a share, the year before. Sales fell to $4.56 billion, from $4.6 billion. Venator's stock fell 18 3/4 cents to $4.68 3/4 in trading Wednesday on the New York Stock Exchange. It was as high as $27.25 last March. Venator's tough times can be attributed to a number of factors -- some of which are out of its control. For one, the sneaker business remains under pressure, as consumers prefer "brown" hiking shoes to another pair of Nike's. …

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