FINANCE

Barnes & Noble reports breach of customer credit data at stores

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Barnes & Noble said it has detected tampering with PIN pad devices that are used in 63 of its stores. Upon detecting evidence of tampering, which was limited to one compromised PIN pad in each of the affected stores, chain discontinued use of all PIN pads in its nearly 700 stores nationwide by the close of business on Sept.14.

In addition, the company notified federal law enforcement authorities, and has been supporting a federal government investigation into the matter.

Stores in California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island were affected, Barnes & Noble said.

According to the retailer, the tampering was a sophisticated criminal effort to steal credit card information, debit card information, and debit card PIN numbers from customers who swiped their cards through PIN pads when they made purchases. It involved only purchases in which a customer swiped a credit or debit card in a store using one of the compromised PIN pads. The criminals planted bugs in the tampered PIN pad devices, allowing for the capture of credit card and PIN numbers.

The company advised those who have swiped their cards at stores in the affected states to change their debit-card PIN numbers as a precaution, and to review their statements for unauthorized transactions. However, the company emphasized that its customer database is secure.

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FINANCE

Signet Jewlers Ltd. to acquire Ultra Stores

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Signet Jewelers Ltd. announced that it has signed a definitive agreement to acquire Ultra Stores, Inc. from Crystal Financial LLC. and its other stockholders for approximately $57 million in cash. Ultra operates stores primarily in outlet centers, as well as licensed jewelry departments.

Signet will not assume any debt in connection with the acquisition.

"The addition of Ultra will immediately result in our having a significant share of the outlet channel for jewelry," said Michael W. Barnes, CEO of Signet Jewelers. "We had identified this rapidly growing channel as an opportunity to profitably increase our sales, enabling us to leverage our competitive strengths and add Ultra’s expertise to our team.”

Signet Jewelers’ U.S. division operates over 1,300 stores in all 50 states primarily under the name brands of Kay Jewelers and Jared The Galleria of Jewelry. Signet’s UK division operates approximately 500 stores primarily under the name brands of H. Samuel and Ernest Jones.

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FINANCE

Jones Group’s profit helped by sales to department stores

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — Jones Group Inc. reported a higher-than-expected quarterly profit, helped by a rise in sales of shoes and jeans to U.S. department stores, which helped make up for a big drop in business at its own stores.

Third-quarter revenue slipped 0.7% to $1.035 billion as sales at the company’s U.S. stores were down 6.7%.

Net income fell to $17.8 million from $41.2 million a year earlier. But excluding charges related to severance and the writedown of the cost of some assets related to store closings and other restructuring costs, as well as some gains and charges related to currency fluctuations and other items, the company earned 57 cents per share. That compared with the average analyst forecastof 32 cents a share.

"Our domestic wholesale footwear and accessories and jeanswear businesses were our best performers, while our structured sportswear business and retail channels remained more challenging and promotional,” said Wesley R. Card, CEO, Jones Group. “Our international segments continued to perform quite well, especially in the face of a difficult economic climate, particularly in Western Europe."

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