Back from the Brink

This week furniture seller Pier 1 Imports posted its first profit in a number of years. The chain had been struggling even before the recession hit, and many industry experts thought it was a goner back in 2008. But Pier 1 seems to have persevered, and its case now offers both hope and an example to follow for retailers who are facing falling sales or other financial problems.

Rather than sit idly by and blame the recession for its poor performance, the management at Pier 1 took a close look at its operations and determined that there were indeed measures it could take that could help it stay afloat. The retailer cut back its staff. It reviwed its real estate portfolio and closed underperforming stores. It scaled down the amount of merchandise it carried and negotiated lower rents on remaining stores. All these measures were undoubtedly tough to implement, but they seem to have served Pier 1's ultimate purpose--to stick around long enough to see consumer demand improve. Sometimes, that's all a retailer needs to survive a downturn.

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