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Payless to close 248 Canadian stores, saying it’s ‘ill-equipped’ for market

TARA DESCHAMPS, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Feb 20th, 2019

Mounting debts and a challenging retail market are forcing Payless ShoeSource Inc. to shutter all of its North American stores by May.

The Kansas-based discount footwear retailer said Tuesday that it will soon file for creditor protection in Canada, making way for liquidation sales at the 248 locations it owns in the country.

The move comes just after Payless filed for bankruptcy in the U.S. and after Ohio-based shoe brand DSW Inc. shut down its Town Shoes Ltd. brand and the 38 stores it had in the country, saying the “competitive landscape for mid-luxury, mall-based footwear has dramatically changed, comparable sales have deteriorated consistently and generated significant operating losses.”

Payless, which was founded in 1956 and previously filed for bankruptcy in 2017, has faced a similar market, revealed its chief restructuring officer Stephen Marotta in a press release, where he said the brand had tried to rejig its operations to no avail.

“The challenges facing retailers today are well documented, and unfortunately Payless emerged from its prior reorganization ill-equipped to survive in today’s retail environment,” said Marotta, who joined the company in January.

“The prior proceedings left the company with too much remaining debt, too large a store footprint and a yet-to-be realized systems and corporate overhead structure consolidation.”

Documents filed with the Ontario Superior Court on Tuesday show the company’s Canadian operations, which employ about 2,400 workers, had an oversupply of inventory as recently as this winter and was forced to sell merchandise at steep markdowns.

The documents said the company failed to pay February’s rent for 220 stores it owns in Canada and reported an operating loss of more than US$12 million last year.

Marotta said in the filings that the company has been unable to integrate its physical stores with a digital offering. Only 200 stores are equipped with such a service, he said, leaving Payless “unable to keep up with the shift in customer demand.”

As a result, he said Payless will begin closing its 2,500 North American stores at the end of March, though some will be open until the end of May while the company conducts liquidation sales.

Retail expert Brynn Winegard said Payless has long had issues because its business model was built around not always keeping inventory in every size for every shoe they sold but also because of the size of its real estate.

“Payless has had to decrease its footprint significantly, but they were over indexed in terms of how large and how much real estate they intended to maintain,” she said.

“Competitive pricing online is so much easier with lower overhead. The big discount and big box stores have margins that are razor thin finding it very hard to compete with online retailers.”

Payless, she said, also faced challenges from manufacturers increasingly circumventing traditional retailers by selling directly to consumers, often at lower costs.

Winegard suspects discount footwear sellers including Walmart Inc., manufacturers with large online presences and e-commerce brands like Amazon Inc. and Asian-based e-commerce giant Alibaba Group Holding Ltd. will benefit from Payless’s demise.

Payless has 420 stores in Latin America, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam and Saipan, and 370 international franchisee stores across the Middle East, India, Indonesia, Indochina, Philippines and Africa.

Netflix setting up production hub in Toronto

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Feb 20th, 2019

Netflix is setting up a dedicated production hub in Toronto, which film and T-V creators hope will provide new opportunities for local talent.

The California-based streaming giant is expanding its presence in Canada by leasing two studio spaces along the downtown industrial waterfront area.

At Cinespace Studios, Netflix is leasing four new sound stages — along with spaces for office and support work — totalling approximately 164-thousand square feet.

At Pinewood Toronto Studios, Netflix is also leasing four sound stages and adjacent office space totalling 84,580 square feet.

Netflix says the commitment will provide jobs for up to 1,850 Canadians per year, and that the leases are “multi-year” but didn’t specify for exactly how long.

Cinespace says its sound stages leased by Netflix are under construction and set to be operational this summer while Pinewood says Netflix will move a production onto one of its sound stages in the next couple of weeks.

Projects already set to be made at the hub include the horror anthology series “Guillermo del Toro Presents Ten After Midnight” and the film “Let It Snow.”

Doug Ford clashes with protesting students at Ontario legislature

SHAWN JEFFORDS, THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Feb 20th, 2019

Doug Ford admonished protesting students for their “filthy” mouths on Tuesday after a group decrying cuts to post-secondary grants disrupted a session at Ontario’s legislature by shouting obscenities at the premier.

A handful of student protesters seated in the public gallery interrupted legislators by shouting chants of “free tuition” followed by profanity directed at the premier. Ford chastised the group and blamed the Opposition for influencing them.

“That’s how they train our kids, with a filthy mouth,” he said. “They should have their mouths washed out with soap. That’s what they should have, because that’s embarrassing.”

The clash comes weeks after the Progressive Conservative government announced that it is ending free tuition for low-income students as it attempts to trim a $13.5 billion deficit. Critics say the move — which is being made in conjunction with a 10 per cent tuition fee cut — is harmful to those it purports to help.

The government has said grants under the Ontario Student Assistance Plan had become unsustainable and it was time to refocus the program to provide help to students in the most financial need.

Under the Liberal OSAP program, families earning up to $175,000 could qualify for some funding and that threshold is now reduced to $140,000. Low-income students could qualify for grants large enough to cover the full cost of tuition under the previous plan, but now a portion of the funding they receive will be a loan.

The government also plans to make some fees paid by Ontario college and university students optional instead of mandatory, including those to student governments. Critics have slammed that move as an attack on free speech on campuses.

Students rallying outside the legislature Tuesday said the changes will increase student debt and limit access to higher education for many.

“We the students will defend access to education against these attacks,” said Nour Alideeb, chairwoman of the Canadian Federation of Students Ontario. “The government’s plans to slash OSAP … has devastated students and families across the country.”

The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario and the Ontario Public Sector Employees Union joined the students in their call for a rollback of the planned changes.

Training, Colleges and Universities Minister Merrilee Fullerton said she respects the students’ right to protest on the grounds outside the building but criticized those who disrupted the legislative session earlier in the day.

“In the chamber, I think we need to demonstrate respect all different ways,” she said. “And make sure that people are heard and that they have an opportunity to protest outside if they wish but to maintain respect for the processes within the chamber.”

The protest comes a week after Ford accused student unions of getting up to “crazy Marxist nonsense” as he appealed for donations to his Progressive Conservative party in a fundraising email.

NDP Leader Andrea Horwath said Ford should be more mindful of his own conduct in the house, chastising him for getting into a shouting match during the morning session with several NDP legislators.

“Mr. Ford doesn’t like to be held to account,” she said. “He thinks he’s the king of Ontario. Well, he’s not the king of Ontario. Whether you’re a student protesting outside or inside … people have a right to be here and to show their displeasure in terms of the government’s behaviour.”

Interim Liberal leader John Fraser said students are upset with the changes for good reason.

“I think it’s fair,” he said. “(The government is) touting a 10 per cent cut which is actually just a reduction in resources to universities.”

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Funeral Wednesday for slain Mississauga girl after 100 mourners gather at vigil

NEWS STAFF AND THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Wednesday, Feb 20th, 2019

The family of an 11-year-old girl, allegedly killed by her father in his Brampton apartment, will say goodbye to their loved one Wednesday.

The funeral for Riya Rajkumar follows a vigil at Garden Square on Thursday night. Members of Brampton city council said they organized the candlelight memorial to give the city the chance to come together to mourn her death.

About 100 mourners gathered to listen to speeches, poems and songs as the community remembered the young girl.

“My daughter Riya was taken from me too early,” Priya Ramdin, who did not attend the vigil, said in a statement read by Peel police Deputy Chief Chris McCord.

“She never liked to be negative and always saw the good in every situation. If I’m ever upset, she would say ‘Mama, don’t be sad, look at the positives.”’

The day Riya died — Valentine’s Day — was also her and her mother’s birthdays.

“Early that day, we went to do our nails and her choice of colour was red,” Ramdin said.

“She was so excited for her birthday, looking forward to having dinner later that evening. Never did I think that my daughter would not return back to me.”

Riya became the subject of an Amber Alert late Thursday night after police say her mother allegedly received information that her father planned to hurt both the child and himself.

Police later broke down the door to her father’s home in Brampton, where Riya was found dead, less than an hour after the Amber Alert was issued.

Roopesh Rajkumar, 41, was arrested some 130 kilometres away and was hospitalized with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. He has been charged with first-degree murder in her death. He remains in hospital.

“Riya was a dreamer,” her mother said.

“She wanted to become a doctor, drive a Lamborghini and one day own a mansion.”

Ramdin described her daughter as her best friend and a social butterfly who loved to spend time with her family and friends.

“She was a little princess who loved dressing up, having her hair curled and done up,” Ramdin said.

“She touched a lot of lives with her laughter and contagious big smile. It breaks my heart to know I will no longer be seeing that smile, hearing her voice and never having her in my arms again.”

Several politicians attended the vigil, including the mayor of Mississauga, Ont., where Riya lived with her mother and went to school.

“Let this tragedy serve as a stark reminder that as a society, we can and we must do better to protect our women and our young girls from violence because this is simply unacceptable,” Mayor Bonnie Crombie said.

“Rest in peace Riya.”

Snow, freezing rain headed for the GTA

NEWS STAFF | posted Wednesday, Feb 20th, 2019

A special weather statement is in effect for the region, ahead of a system that’s expected to move in Wednesday afternoon.

Environment Canada said snow will arrive around noon and then change to freezing rain this evening.

“Freezing rain or freezing drizzle will then change to occasional rain or drizzle near midnight as temperatures rise above the zero degree mark,” the national weather agency said in its statement.

680 NEWS meteorologist Jill Taylor said snow will develop around 2 p.m. with around two centimetres expected to fall. The freezing rain will start at 7 p.m. and change to rain at 9 p.m.

As the temperature nears the 0 C mark, there could be times when the snow will mix with the freezing rain or rain.

Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld dead at 85: reports

NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Feb 19th, 2019

Fashion designer Karl Lagerfeld has died in Paris at the age of 85, French media is reporting.

Lagerfeld started his fashion career in 1955 as an assistant to Pierre Balmain.

Over the decades he became a staple in the fashion world, usually seen in his signature black and white attire and waving his white fan.

In 1974 Lagerfeld launched his own clothing line and in 1983 Chanel announced he would serve as creative director.

His designs were recently a focus of an episode of the Netflix show 7 Days Out, which looked at the days leading up to the Chanel Haute Couture Fashion Show during Paris Fashion Week.

Kids should avoid ingesting cough and cold products with opioids: Health Canada

NEWS STAFF | posted Tuesday, Feb 19th, 2019

Health Canada is recommending children stop ingesting ingredients used in some cold and cough medicine because of its potential links to problematic substance abuse.

Based on a new safety review, the agency says anyone under the age of 18 should not use over-the-counter products that contain codeine, hydrocodone and normethadone, as a precautionary measure.

The review found the early use of opioids could be a factor in problematic substance use later in life. It also detected limited evidence to support the effectiveness of the cough and cold medicines for children.

However, they did say there was no strong evidence linking cough and cold products that contain opioids with opioid use disorders.

They recommend parents should ask their health care professional about alternatives to cough and cold medicines that contain opioids.

Codeine products are already not recommended for children under 12 while hydrocodone and normethadone products were not recommended for children under six.

While most codeine products do require a prescription, however, there are some over-the counter products that contain a low dose of codeine.

Health Canada is asking manufacturers of the medicines to update their product safety information to make it clear the the products should not be taken by minors.

The agency also plans to consult with the Drug Safety and Effectiveness Network for additional studies on the links between opioid use disorder and the use of products that contain opioids.

Ontario legislature returns after winter break, policing legislation expected

THE CANADIAN PRESS | posted Tuesday, Feb 19th, 2019

Ontario’s legislature resumes today with the Progressive Conservative government expected to tackle several issues this session, including changes to policing oversight.

The Tories halted laws introduced by the previous Liberal regime to strengthen oversight of law enforcement and redefine officers’ duties, and a government source says legislation on policing is expected to be introduced today.

Legislation is also expected before the end of the month to create a health “super agency,” moving local health integration networks, Cancer Care Ontario, eHealth Ontario under one umbrella.

The government will also set the stage for its first budget with a stated goal of slashing a $13.5-billion deficit and providing a picture of how Ontario can get back into the black.

Finance Minister Vic Fedeli has said the budget will show a path to balance, though he hasn’t specified if the government will eliminate the deficit within its four-year mandate.

Meanwhile, the Canadian Federation of Students is expected to hold a demonstration at the legislature today to protest recently announced cuts to student grants.

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