Baker, Ahles & Kaskovich

A second brand for Pier 1 Imports? New CEO says it’s possible

Alasdair James is the new president and CEO at Pier 1 Imports.
Alasdair James is the new president and CEO at Pier 1 Imports.

In his public debut as Pier 1’s new CEO, Alasdair James told Wall Street analysts on Wednesday that the retailer may need a second brand to appeal to younger consumers.

James, who took over the top job at Pier 1 Imports on May 1 after leading Kmart for three years, said his long-term goal is to launch a new era of growth at the Fort Worth-based home furnishings company.

“The business has been hovering around sub-$2 billion (in sales) for the past several years and we absolutely have the opportunity to go well beyond that,” he said on the call. “Our next chapter will need to be about how we double the size of the business.”

With that in mind, James said his team is exploring how best to reach beyond its core customers, who are roughly 50 years old with annual household incomes of more than $100,000.

He said a number of trials are underway at stores around the country, including some to “see what we need to have for an urban customer that is more oriented towards apartment living than suburban larger home living.”

The answer, he said, could be a new brand, a sub-brand or even an acquisition.

“I’m not ruling anything out at the moment,” he said.

James said he expects to have results from the store trials by fall and told analysts he would share more detailed plans in November.

James also said Pier 1 is beefing up analytics technology to fine-tune its marketing approach. He said he just hired a new chief information officer who is versed in artificial intelligence and machine learning to help target customers and find the best price points on merchandise.

James comes to Pier 1 as retailers continue to adjust to the growth of online shopping. Pier 1 has been steadily growing its e-commerce business, which generated about 25 percent of sales in the last quarter. It takes an omni-channel approach, meaning shoppers can order goods online and pick them up at the closest store, or order goods in stores to be delivered to their homes.

James’ message came as Pier 1 delivered disappointing first-quarter results. Sales dipped slightly and the company said it doesn’t expect a big improvement in the second quarter. Pier 1’s stock sold off by about 8 percent on Thursday.

Interestingly, for the second time, analysts heard a British accent from the Pier 1 CEO. A graduate of the University of Portsmouth, James worked for many years at the British retailer Tesco. Alex Smith, who the previously led Pier 1, also was British.

Business as usual at Billy Bob’s

While the bitter family feud over Billy Bob’s Texas continues, the owners want everyone to know that it’s business as usual at the world’s largest honky-tonk over the July Fourth holiday.

That’s good news for those who plan to go see the Texas Red Dirt Roads and Chris Janson on Sunday. If you’re wanting to learn how to line dance, class is still in session.

“We want to assure everyone that the legal dispute currently in the news will in no way interfere with the great Billy Bob’s experience or the future stability of this proud Texas institution,” said Chris Spinks, marketing director for Billy Bob’s Texas in a prepared statement.

Spinks did not respond to a request for comment from the Star-Telegram.

Spinks’ statement was issued after state District Judge Michael Wallach continued to block an effort by some of the investors to oust manager Concho Minick, who also is an investor. In a lawsuit Minick filed, he asks the judge to appoint a receiver to run the 127,000-square-foot beer joint while trying to break the deadlock among the owners.

If that can’t be done, he wants the honky-tonk to be sold.

But that’s all in the future. Until then, don’t worry about there being a last call for the bar.

“There are few entertainment venues more iconic than Billy Bob’s Texas. For more than 35 years, Billy Bob’s has served up a memorable time for our guests, and maintained strong relationships with our employees, performers, vendors and the entire community,” he said.

“This is a disagreement between longtime friends and partners, and will get straightened out soon,” Spinks said.

DFW and Uber Elevate

If Uber wants to fly in the Metroplex, Dallas/Fort Worth Airport wants to be a part of it.

Airport Executive Vice President Ken Buchanan said the airport has been meeting with Uber to discuss the transportation company’s Uber Elevate test program. Announced in April, Uber plans to develop a network of aircraft to provide on-demand air transportation in large cities. Dallas-Fort Worth would be the test market for the concept.

“We are looking at and really thinking about what the new model is for the future,” Buchanan said at an airport board meeting last week.

The airport does not have a formal agreement with Uber, but Buchanan said its central location in North Texas makes it an obvious choice to be a hub for Uber Elevate. Uber has already announced partnerships with Hillwood Properties and Bell Helicopter to build electric-powered aircraft and skyports to provide transportation and delivery services in urban areas.

“We’re talking about the possibilities of the future between our organizations and the transformation that’s going to take place with this entire transportation region,” Buchanan said.

Stockyards move scaled back

Seven months after approving a potential $1 million incentive with Rural Media Group for the relocation of its headquarters and RFD-TV broadcasting operations to the Stockyards, city officials learned those plans have been scaled back.

As a result, the economic development grant approved in November will not be executed, according to a city report.

Originally planned to take 30,000 square feet in the Mule Barns on East Exchange Avenue, the Omaha-based company will take 14,000 square feet in the Stockyards Auction Barn for offices and its broadcast studios, which are now in Nashville.

Rural Media Group had committed to spend at least $5 million on the project and have about 100 employees here. Now, Rural Media Group plans to bring only some of its headquarters operation and will have about 35 employees. Sandra Baker

Andrea Ahles: 817-390-7631, @Sky_Talk

Max B. Baker: 817-390-7714, @MaxbakerBB

Steve Kaskovich: 817-390-7773, @stevekasko