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Conn. Attorney General Criticizes Wal-Mart Child-Labor Settlement

BY CSA STAFF

Stamford, Conn., Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal today said he would ask other states to investigate the details of the Wal-Mart settlement over alleged child-labor violations. Referring to the Labor Department’s provision that Wal-Mart would have 15 days’ notice before investigating any supposed violations of wage or hour laws, Blumenthal called the settlement “a sweetheart deal.”

Both Labor Department officials and Wal-Mart spokesman Gus Whitcomb argued that the agreement was standard. Whitcomb added that Wal-Mart would cooperate with the Attorney General in his investigation of the settlement, the Associated Press reported.

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Friedman’s Seeks to Close 165 Stores

BY CSA STAFF

Savannah, Ga., Friedman’s Inc. announced it will seek the Bankruptcy Court’s approval in its Chapter 11 reorganization to close up to 165 underperforming stores in 17 states, and sell in excess of $25 million of inventory through a court-approved disposition process. The closings will leave Friedman’s with approximately 481 stores in 20 states.

The company’s board of directors approved the store-closing program on Monday, and pleadings were filed in the Bankruptcy Court on Monday evening. The Court has scheduled a hearing on the closings for March 2, 2005.

Friedman’s filed Chapter 11 in January 2005.

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Nordstrom 4Q Earnings Up 34%

BY CSA STAFF

Seattle, Nordstrom today reported a 34% rise in net earnings for the fourth quarter ended Jan. 29, 2005. The retailer reported net earnings of $140 million, or $1 per diluted share. The earnings were reduced $4.7 million, or 30? per share, due to a non-cash expense adjustment related to a correction in the company’s lease accounting policy. Excluding the adjustment, 2004 fourth-quarter net earnings were $144.7 million, or $1.03 per diluted share.

Sales for the quarter increased 9.4%, to a record $2.1 billion vs. $1.9 billion in the same period last year. Fourth-quarter same-store sales increased 7.2%, which was better than the company’s plan.

For the fiscal year ended Jan. 29, 2005, net earnings increased 62% to $393.5 million compared to $242.8 million for the same period last year. Total sales for the year increased 10.6% to $7.1 billion compared to prior-year sales of $6.4 billion. Same-store sales rose 8.5%.

Nordstrom opened two full-line stores during fiscal 2004, one in Charlotte, N.C., and the other in Miami. It plans to open a store at Phipps Plaza, Atlanta, during the first quarter of 2005.

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