Sears/Wal-Mart Kill Portrait Studios

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 Post subject: Sears/Wal-Mart Kill Portrait Studios
Unread postPosted: Fri Apr 05, 2013 6:56 pm 
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Interesting, and an end of an era... Sears [Roebuck and Co.], Wal-Mart and Babies 'R' Us are dropping their portrait studios in-store. Some rather abruptly. The reason is the owner behind the studios:

Portrait Studios At Wal-Mart, Sears Are Abruptly Shuttered

By Karen Talley The photographer that ran the portrait studios at Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (WMT), Sears Holdings Corp. (SHLD) and Babies "R" Us has abruptly shuttered its business, ending a long-time retail tradition--at least for now--at those stores. CPI Corp., in a statement on its website, said it has closed all of its U.S. studios "after many years of providing family portrait photography." The St. Louis-based company didn't explain the hasty closure, and calls to CPI went unanswered. However, the company has struggled financially, hurt by the rise of digital photography. The news came suddenly to the retailers. "We were notified Thursday that CPI is ceasing its U.S. operations at retailers across the country immediately," Sears spokesman Howard Riefs said. CPI has provided photo services for Sears' customers since 1959 and has been the store's only portrait studio operator since 1986, currently located in all 788 Sears stores in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Sears is looking for an alternative vendor, Mr. Riefs said. A Wal-Mart spokeswoman had no immediate comment. CPI was the sole operator of portrait studios in all U.S. Wal-Mart stores and supercenters. CPI's financials have been deteriorating. Through the first three quarters of its recently completed fiscal year, the company's loss quintupled to more than $60 million, while sales fell 24% to $192.7 million. Meanwhile, CPI's total liabilities rose 14% to $174.8 million, and its total assets dropped 41% to $56.2 million. These are the latest numbers publicly available for the company. Last month, CPI entered into its fourth forbearance agreement with its creditors, to whom the company owed $98.5 million. The agreement gave the company until April 6 to repay the creditors. Department stores have long offered portrait services at their stores. The studios are a place where family milestones can be captured, like a youngster's birthday or a holiday picture. The studios also would bring in customers that could fan out and shop in other parts of the store. Spokespeople from the retailers said they are making sure customers get their photos, with Wal-Mart providing them at its customer service counters and Sears saying it is working with CPI. CPI said in its online statement, "We are attempting to fulfill as many customer orders as possible." Write to Karen Talley at; Subscribe to WSJ:

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