OPERATIONS

Avenue Stores closing 96 stores as part of restructuring

BY Marianne Wilson

Rochell Park, N.J. — Avenue Stores announced it has begun the process to close 96 stores over the next three months. The company previously announced plans to selectively close and consolidate stores in order to finalize a geographic footprint that maximizes profitability and sales growth potential.

Upon completion of the closures, the company will continue to operate more than 300 stores in 34 states, and offer online shopping,

During the closing process, the affected stores will offer extraordinary sales on remaining inventory. The sales will begin immediately.

“This kind of necessary step is always a difficult decision given the impact on employees and customers, but it is an important step in concluding our successful recent restructuring, and will allow us to focus our resources,” said Elizabeth “Liz” Williams, CEO of Avenue Stores. “We will be offering our customers significant discounts at the closing stores during the closing process.”

The retailer said that while it is presently consolidating its base, it intends to return to new store growth at the appropriate time in the future.

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News

Fred’s names new board member

BY CSA STAFF

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Fred’s has named Steven Fitzpatrick to its board of directors. Fitzpatrick will be presented as one of the director nominees at the company’s 2012 annual meeting to be held later this summer.

Fitzpatrick was the president of Accredo Health Group Inc., a specialty pharmacy subsidiary of Medco Health Solutions Inc., a position he held until he retired in June 2011. He joined Accredo in 2001 as president of its subsidiary, Sunrise Health Management Inc., and was named president of Accredo Therapeutics Inc. in February 2002. With the acquisition of Accredo by Medco Health Solutions, Inc. in August 2005, Fitzpatrick assumed responsibility for both Accredo Therapeutics and Accredo Specialty Care Services (formerly Medco Specialty Solutions). In March 2006, he became COO of Accredo Health Group and was named president in June 2008. Prior to joining Accredo, Fitzpatrick held senior management positions with Abbott Laboratories, Block Medical, PharmaThera and Nations Healthcare.

Commenting on the announcement, Michael Hayes, chairman of the board, said, "The addition of Steve Fitzpatrick to our board brings a unique blend of business acumen along with a knowledgeable resource for the management to call upon regarding pharmacy operations. We are delighted to have Steve join our board. Steve will join Bruce Efird, Rick Chambers and Tom Tashjian on Fred’s strategic pharmacy healthcare committee to explore growth and capital needs over the next five years, and he will also serve on several other committees."

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FINANCE

Talbots buyout talks with Sycamore end

BY Marianne Wilson

Hingham, Mass. — Talbots said Friday that Sycamore Partners had walked away from negotiations over a proposed $215 million buyout of the retailer. The company, which also reported first quarter results, said it was exploring other strategic alternatives.

“Sycamore Partners informed the company that it is not prepared to execute a transaction at this time,” Talbots said in a statement on Friday. “The company remains open to pursuing a transaction with Sycamore Partners at $3.05 per share pursuant to an acceptable merger agreement providing for an appropriate level of closing certainty and supported by firm debt and equity financing commitments.”

Earlier this month, Talbots and Sycamore entered into an exclusivity agreement to discuss an offer of $3.05 a share for Talbots. That exclusivity period was extended twice and expired on Friday.

On Friday, Talbots reported operating income of $5.6 million for the first quarter, ended April 28, 2012, up sharply from $3.2 million in the quarter a year ago.

Net sales decreased 8.4% to $275.9 million, compared with $301.3 million in the same period last year, due in part to the impact of store closings in fiscal 2011 as a result of the company’s store rationalization plan. Consolidated comparable sales, which includes stores, Internet, catalog and red-line sales, decreased 3.8% compared with the prior year.

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