FINANCE

Charming Shoppes to Consolidate Catherines Operations

BY CSA STAFF

Bensalem, Pa., Charming Shoppes Inc. said Thursday it will consolidate its Memphis-based Catherines Plus Sizes subsidiary into its Bensalem, Pa. headquarters.

The measure is part of a larger cost savings plan outlined by Charming Shoppes, whose 2,425 stores trade under the names Lane Bryant, Fashion Bug and Catherines.

Catherines will move its operations by the end of March 2008, which will result in annual savings of $8 million, the company said. About 117 local employees will be affected. Charming Shoppes Inc. spokesman Steve Wishner said employees will have an opportunity to choose between a severance package and a relocation package. All members of senior management have indicated their willingness to relocate, he said. Memphis-area stores will not be affected.

The move will result in a one-time, pre-tax expense of $4 million related to severance, retention and relocation costs. It will also mean $4.5 million in pre-tax charges related to write-downs of fixed assets in Memphis.

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Study: Premium food popularity growing

BY CSA STAFF

LYON, France A Reportlinker.com report determined that retail sales of gourmet, specialty and premium foods and beverages are growing at much at a faster pace than those of the overall food and beverage industry in the United States, surging 10.9% to $59 billion in 2007 and maintaing a compound annual growth rate of 11.1% for the 2003 to 2007 period.

Greater availability of gourmet and premium products, growing interest in world cuisines and flavors, the association of high-quality ingredients with health and wellness, overlap of gourmet and natural/organic, the supermarket industry’s focus on upscale “fresh formats,” higher disposable incomes among U.S. consumers, and product positioning as affordable luxuries have enticed the consumer and driven sales. Such factors have helped produce a growing population of willing-to-spend consumers who are looking for foods that are more adventuresome and yet more nutritious.

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Gap Inc. October comps fall

BY CSA STAFF

SAN FRANCISCO Gap Inc. today reported a comparable-store sales decrease of 8% for the four weeks ended Nov. 3, compared to 7% for the period ended Oct. 28, 2006. The company reported net sales of $1.23 billion for the October 2007, which represents a 1% decrease compared with net sales of $1.24 billion for the same period last year.

By segment, comps for Gap North America fell 7% versus a 4% drop last year, Banana Republic North America comps were down 2% versus a 2% growth last year, Old Navy North America comps dropped 11%, same as last year, and international comps were down 6% versus a decrease of 8% last year.

“While comparable-store sales were down in October, merchandise margins were significantly above last year,” said Sabrina Simmons, evp of Gap Inc. finance. “The results reflect our stated strategy of managing inventory tightly to support margin improvements.” 

For the thirteen weeks ended Nov. 3, total company net sales were $3.85 billion, which is flat as compared to net sales of $3.85 billion for the thirteen weeks ended Oct. 28, 2006. The company’s third quarter comparable-store sales decreased 5% compared with a decrease of 5% in the third quarter of the prior year.

For the third quarter of fiscal year 2007, Gap Inc. expects diluted earnings per share to be 28 cents to 30 cents, as the company continues to make progress on its strategies of driving earnings with healthy margins and controlling expenses.

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