FINANCE

Ascena Retail to acquire Charming Shoppes for $890 million

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Suffern, N.Y. — The Ascena Retail Group said Wednesday it will acquire Charming Shoppes Inc., parent company of Lane Bryant, for about $890 million.

The move gives Ascena — which owns the Dressbarn, Maurices and Justice chains — entry to the steadily-growing large-size women’s clothing market. In addition to Lane Bryant, Charming Shoppes also owns the Fashion Bug and Catherines Plus Sizes banners. It operates more than 1,800 stores nationwide. In 2011, nearly 85% of Charming Shoppes’ sales involved plus-sized apparel.

Upon completion of the deal, which has been approved by both boards, Charming Shoppes, which is based in Bensalem, Pa., will become a subsidiary of Ascena.

“Charming Shoppes is a superb strategic fit for Ascena,” said David R. Jaffe, president and CEO, Suffern, N.Y., which operates more than 2,500 stores. “Over the past few years, we have welcomed into our family new brands and new team members while delivering increasing value to shareholders. We believe that Charming Shoppes will be no exception.”

Charming Shoppes announced last December that it was examining alternatives for the company.

“In addition to partnering with a buyer that can support the future growth and development of our businesses, the $7.35 per share consideration represents a premium of 25% to the closing market price of Charming Shoppes common stock on May 1, 2012,” Michael Goldstein, board chairman of Charming Shoppes, said in a statement. “We are confident that this transaction is in the best interests of our shareholders.”

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News

NRF: Swipe fees haven’t dropped enough

BY CSA STAFF

WASHINGTON — The National Retail Federation is responding to a report from the Federal Reserve, which revealed that debit card swipe fees collected by the nation’s largest banks have significantly dropped since reform regulations took effect last fall.

The Federal Reserve’s report showed that the average debit card swipe fee charged by large banks covered under last year’s regulations dropped to an average of 24 cents in fourth quarter 2011, down from an average of 43 cents in 2009. Debit swipe fees for banks with less than $10 billion in assets, which were not covered by the regulations, remained unchanged as expected.

The NRF, however, said the decrease in swipe fees charged is not enough and expressed disappointment over this result.

"We believe the numbers for the big banks are too high and had the Fed followed the law there would be significantly greater savings for merchants and their customers," NRF SVP and general counsel Mallory Duncan said. "This is working the way the Fed set it up to work, but the Fed didn’t fully comply with what Congress required. This is better than paying the full monopoly prices we paid before but they are still partial monopoly prices."

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REAL ESTATE

Books For Less opens at Moorestown Mall

BY Staff Writer

Moorestown, N.J. — Philadelphia-based Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust said that Books for Less is now open at Moorestown Mall, located in the Boscov’s wing next to Spencer’s.

The 6,473-sq.-ft. Books For Less store will be joined by Cinnabon, which is set to open at the mall in May.

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