Economy Briefs: Best Buy to cut costs, close some big-box stores

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MINNESOTA

Best Buy to cut costs, close some big-box stores

MINNEAPOLIS Best Buy Co. said it plans to close 50 big-box stores and open 100 small mobile locations in the U.S. in fiscal 2013 and cut $800 million in costs by fiscal 2015. The news came Thursday as the biggest U.S. specialty electronics retailer posted a fiscal fourth-quarter loss partly because of restructuring charges, but its adjusted results topped Wall Street’s expectations.

Best Buy’s strategy of focusing on closing some of its hulking stores to concentrate on smaller Best Buy Mobile outlets illustrates the shifting nature of the electronics industry. Shoppers aren’t flocking to big-box stores as they once did. And sales of TVs, digital cameras and video-game consoles have weakened, while sales of tablet computers, smartphones and e-readers have increased.

Best Buy lost $1.7 billion, or $4.89 per share, for the period ended March 3. That compares with a profit of $651 million, or $1.62 per share, a year ago.

The Minneapolis company said its quarterly results included $2.6 billion in charges. They were mostly related to its purchase of Carphone Warehouse Group PLC’s interest in the Best Buy Mobile profit-sharing agreement and related costs, as well as an impairment charge tied to writing off Best Buy Europe goodwill and restructuring charges.

NEW YORK

Port Authority to cut nonunion benefits

NEW YORK The Port Authority of New York and New Jersey voted Thursday to cut bonuses and other benefits for its nonunion employees in a move expected to save $41 million over 18 months.

“These changes are painful and will represent pay cuts for many Port Authority employees,” Executive Director Patrick Foye told the authority’s board of commissioners. But Mr. Foye said Port Authority staffers still earn more than many other government employees.

A recent audit ordered by the governors of New York and New Jersey criticized the agency’s organization and called its management “dysfunctional.”

The belt-tightening plan that the audit prompted will require nonunion workers for the first time to contribute to the cost of their health care premiums. More than 2,000 employees would be affected.

Employees at the top of the Port Authority’s pay scale will pay 35 percent of their health insurance premiums.

Employees will lose an average of 5.3 vacation days, with some workers losing as many as 17.

The authority also is eliminating six bonus programs that had added tens of thousands of dollars to workers’ paychecks. Seniority and retention bonuses had enabled some rank-and-file police officers to earn more than $200,000 a year.

The board also eliminated many of the free PATH train passes that are given to employees and retirees.

VERMONT

Kale artist to challenge ruling on trademark

BURLINGTON A Vermont man who prints T-shirts urging people to “Eat more kale” has six months to challenge a trademark ruling against him.

The Chick-fil-A restaurant chain says folk artist Bo Muller-Moore’s T-shirt infringes on its trademarked “Eat mor chikin” slogan.

The Burlington Free Press reports that the Atlanta-based company filed a letter of protest Tuesday with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The office then issued a preliminary decision saying there’s a likelihood that people would confuse the sources of the two phrases, thinking they come from the same place.

Mr. Muller-Moore’s attorney says there’s nothing in the decision that makes him rethink his client’s own application for a trademark.

Mr. Muller-Moore has been making and selling the “Eat more kale” T-shirts and other items for more than a decade.

CALIFORNIA

Yahoo! websites to get do-not-track tool

SAN FRANCISCO Yahoo! on Thursday said it will soon add a tool to its websites that will enable visitors to signal that they don’t want their online activity tracked for ad targeting or other ends.

The California-based Internet pioneer promised to deploy a “Do Not Track solution” across its global network, including online advertising units Right Media and interclick, by midyear.

“This site-wide DNT mechanism will provide a simple step for consumers to express their ad-targeting preferences to Yahoo!” the company said in a release that did not provide details on how the tool would work.

Yahoo! said it would provide privacy innovation in a way that continued to allow free online services supported by advertising.

Yahoo! said it “looks forward to continuing the dialogue with policymakers to discuss common-sense solutions that protect user privacy while maintaining the free Internet model.”

In a report released this week backing tighter online privacy laws, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission called for Internet users to be given an easy-to-use “Do Not Track” feature.

The FTC put its seal on recommendations for businesses and U.S. legislators to better protect people’s privacy in “an era of rapid change.”

NEW YORK

Judge blocks sales of Jets-Tebow apparel

NEW YORK A judge says “sufficient reason” has been shown for him to put a stop to Reebok’s sales of Tim Tebow apparel that links him to the New York Jets.

Judge Kevin Castel issued an order late Wednesday blocking sales by Reebok International Ltd. after Nike Inc. sued the company earlier in the day.

The judge banned Reebok from selling any apparel with the name “Tebow” on it unless it was made by March 1 and was Denver Broncos-related. He set a hearing in the case for next week.

Tebow was traded from Denver to New York last week. The trade occurred just before Nike is to replace Reebok on Sunday as the supplier of NFL team uniforms.

The lawsuit seeks unspecified damages.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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