Archive for » March 19th, 2016«

Yacht builder Palmer Johnson selling woodworking tools at auction

By Rick Barrett of the Journal Sentinel

It’s not often that a 98-year-old yacht builder shuts down, but when it does, the tools that go up for sale could be a woodworker’s dream.

Now through March 30, thousands of tools are available in an online auction of the production assets of the Palmer Johnson Yachts plant in Sturgeon Bay.

Last fall, Palmer Johnson announced it was leaving Sturgeon Bay and moving to the Netherlands, eliminating about 100 jobs. The company, founded in northeast Wisconsin in 1918, had built yachts costing tens of millions of dollars.

Palmer Johnson hired Hansen Young Inc. of Prairie Farm to auction off the production equipment, including about 4,500 lots of woodworking and metalworking tools.

Some of the lots include multiple tools. The age and condition of the equipment varies.

“Some of the old woodworking tools are as solid or better built than some of the new stuff,” said Bryce Hansen, auctioneer and vice president at Hansen Young.

The inventory includes band saws, drills, sanders, grinders, CNC machines, dust-collecting machines, vacuums, sewing machines and much more. It also includes materials and supplies.

All of the bidding takes place on the Internet.

“It’s an eBay-style auction, except it’s on our website,” Hansen said.

Most of the items are at the former Palmer Johnson plant at 128 Kentucky St., Sturgeon Bay. They will be available for viewing March 28 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., and bidding will end March 29 or March 30 depending on the item.

It’s a liquidation sale, so everything will be sold.

“There will be interest from all over the country, but it’s not like this stuff is super rare or hard to find. I would say 95% of the sales will probably go to individuals and businesses in the Midwest,” Hansen said.

Bay Shipbuilding announced plans to buy the former Palmer Johnson plant. It is the only boat builder left in Sturgeon Bay, a city that has a rich maritime history.

Yacht building is an important niche industry in northeast Wisconsin, where the brands include Palmer Johnson, Carver, Marquis, Burger, Cruisers and Rampage.

But yacht builders fell on hard times in the Great Recession. The Carver and Marquis brands, based in Pulaski, were sold in a bankruptcy auction in 2010. In 2013, Carver introduced three new motor yachts, the first time it had done that in years.

The tools auction will mark the end of Palmer Johnson in Wisconsin, where it began by building and repairing commercial fishing vessels.

For more information about the auction and the tools for sale, visit: www.hansenandyoung.com/palmer-johnson.

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Gordmans earnings report shows more declining sales; CEO says ‘it’s all fair game’ for cost cutting – Omaha World

For the past three years, Omaha-based Gordmans has been up against declining sales, bloated inventory and a competitive retailing world.

After the company reported another round of declining sales on Friday, that uphill slog looks likely to continue. The fourth-quarter decline in same-store sales marks a wrong turn for the company, which in the third quarter reported its first such sales increase in three years.

Still, some on Wall Street are hopeful that Chief Executive Andy Hall, who took over in 2014, has begun to put the pieces in place to create a profitable discount department store business.

Since Hall took the helm, he has hired a new head of merchandising and a new chief financial officer, launched a new e-commerce platform, put the brakes on building new stores and debuted a new marketing campaign.

More changes are expected in 2016: Hall announced Friday on a conference call with Wall Street analysts that the company has hired a national firm to conduct a third-party expense review in April.

From the corporate office to distribution operations and retail stores, “it’s all fair game” for cost cutting, Hall said.

The company employed about 250 people in its Omaha headquarters as of late last year.

The company also plans to implement a new point-of-sale system this year and has begun using strategies of competitors like Ross Stores, including buying end-of-season goods at low prices and packing them away until the next year.

Fourth-quarter earnings hit Wall Street expectations on the nose at 6 cents per diluted share, the company said Friday, but it wasn’t enough to woo investors: The company’s stock was down almost 5.5 percent on the day and closed at $2.41 a share on the New York Stock Exchange.

The earnings were likely overshadowed by the comparable store sales that were down 2.2 percent over the fourth quarter in 2014.

Like most retailers, Gordmans was hurt in the fourth quarter by unseasonably warm weather that affected many of the markets where the retailer operates stores, Hall said.

Hall also tempered expectations for the first quarter of 2016, saying sales so far have been choppy, and weather was not to blame this time as it was for the sporadic fourth quarter. Comparable store sales were expected to remain flat or down by up to 2 percent.

“I think the choppiness is less weather-related and more consumer-related,” Hall said. “I’m not sure why it’s consumer-related, but I think it is.”

A reading of U.S. consumer sentiment unexpectedly soured Friday, with the University of Michigan’s national consumer survey saying concerns about rising gasoline prices and broader questions about the global economy painted a less-optimistic picture in March.

Still, some analysts are hopeful all of the changes at Gordmans might pay off this year.

“The steps that management has put in place over the past year should have a positive impact in 2016,” said Richard Jaffe, an analyst with Stifel Nicolaus in New York. “With a relatively new management team … and various strategic initiatives in place, we believe the company is better positioned for further improvement.”

In 2015, comparable store sales were down 1.3 percent, much better than the negative sales reported in 2014 and 2013, which were down 4.8 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

While things are moving in the right direction, the disappointing fourth quarter and a tempered first quarter are probably more than just a hiccup, said Ken Perkins, president of research firm Retail Metrics in Boston.

“They’re going to need to show the investment community that they can generate several quarters in a row of positive comps moving in the right direction,” Perkins said of positive same-store sales. “I don’t get the sense that it is a blip in the road.”

The discount retailer space is crowded, and many of Gordmans’ competitors are heavyweights. The Omaha retailer has about 100 stores, while competitors like TJ Maxx have thousands.

“They’re in such a competitive space, trying to create a niche with so many off-pricers and so many other deep discounters,” Perkins said. Their growth “certainly lagged the rest of the industry.”

But Gordmans is in the same boat as many other retailers: trying to compete for market share when consumers are spending less and less on apparel and more on dining, vehicles and travel, Perkins said.

Some good news for 2016: Apparel sales may be on their way back up.

“There are some signs that the tide may be turning, with a cyclical rotation back into apparel,” he said. “So we’ll see. We’re watching it closely.”


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