Joe Keenan is the executive editor of Total Retail. Joe has more than 10 years experience covering the retail industry, and enjoys profiling innovative companies and people in the space.

Struggling big-box retailers Sears and Toys"R"Us, which sell merchandise easily bought from a mobile device, are using a surprising tactic to forestall death: turning their vast real estate holdings into cash-generating piggybanks. Toys"R"Us, collectively owned by private equity firms Bain Capital, KKR and Vornado Realty Trust, is the latest to offer a glimpse into how a floundering national retailer is morphing into a landlord. On Sept. 17, Toys"R"Us disclosed that it will open Claire's branded shops in 100 locations scattered across the U.S., U.K., France, Germany, Austria and Spain. 

As retailers are tallying their holiday profits and setting a course for 2014, there are five ways that merchants can capitalize on their earnings and avoid pitfalls. The responsibility of retail profit margin and loses largely falls on marketers and merchandising leaders. By working together, they can improve their understanding of customer demands and product preferences.

Of-the-month gift clubs have been popular for years, but it took two Harvard Business School entrepreneurs to one, make the concept cool and two, completely disrupt the online beauty industry in the process. After brainstorming over how to connect the world of e-commerce with the very personal realm of beauty shopping, classmates Katia Beauchamp and Hayley Barna came up with Birchbox. The duo launched the $10 monthly subscription service of personalized makeup products in September 2010, and debuted a men's version in April 2012.

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