OPERATIONS

Consumer confidence pulls back slightly in March

BY Marianne Wilson

New York — The Conference Board said Tuesday that its Consumer Confidence Index pulled back slightly in March, to 70.2, down from 71.6 in February.

"Consumer Confidence pulled back slightly in March, after rising sharply in February,” said Lynn Franco, director of The Conference Board Consumer Research Center. “The moderate decline was due solely to a less favorable short-term outlook, while consumers’ assessment of current conditions, on the other hand, continued to improve.”

The Present Situation Index increased to 51.0 from 46.4, its highest level in three and a half years. The results, Franco said, suggest that despite this month’s dip in confidence, consumers feel the economy is not losing momentum.

The Expectations Index declined to 83.0 from 88.4 in February as consumers became less optimistic about the short-term outlook. The proportion of consumers expecting business conditions to improve over the next six months increased to 19.2% from 18.9%. However, those anticipating business conditions will worsen also rose, to 13.5% from 11.8%.

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REAL ESTATE

Charles Sparks designs new format for Neiman Marcus

BY Staff Writer

Westchester, Ill. — Charles Sparks + Co. announced the debut of its design for the new Neiman Marcus store in Walnut Creek, Calif. The 85,000-sq.-ft., three-level location represents a fresh new vision of modern luxury in a smaller format store for the luxury department store retailer.

The greatest asset of Walnut Creek is its geographic setting. The rolling hills, small range of mountains that frame the city, its open spaces, shade trees that line many of the streets and downtown shopping district and luminous colors of its natural surroundings make Walnut Creek a unique place that the interior designer drew from as inspiration.

With a design inspired by the surrounding locale, the store is planned as a series of informal interlocking spaces with an occasional infusion of natural light that architecturally marries inside with outside in a way that very few retail formats achieve. The interior finishes and materials draw from the context of the region’s textures, northern California light and rich colors of the landscape. The materials palettes includes warmer, lighter tonality, the use of glass and metal screens that provide a sense of translucency and openness, and neutral zones for placement of fine art. The perimeters are often sculpted designs as a subtle reference to the natural surroundings but also to add uniqueness and energy in the spaces.

Sparks has partnered with Neiman Marcus for the past 12 years in the design of over 1.7 million sq. ft. of their luxury retail spaces.

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OPERATIONS

Alliance Data to continue to manage private label credit card program for Little Switzerland

BY Staff Writer

Dallas — Alliance Data Systems Corp. has signed a multi-year renewal agreement to continue managing the private label credit card program for duty-free jewelry retailer Little Switzerland.

“Since launching our credit card program with Alliance Data in 2004, Little Switzerland has expanded its customer base and increased loyalty by offering compelling financing and promotional offers; we look forward to continuing this partnership and growing the program,” said Hal Tayler, CEO, Little Switzerland, which operates 32 retail locations on 10 Caribbean islands and in Key West, Fla., under the trade names Little Switzerland and Jewels, along with web and catalog channels. “In our endeavor to define luxury in the Caribbean, and in continued collaboration with Alliance Data, we are able to ensure a level of convenience and flexibility to our cardholders that makes our quality merchandise accessible to even more travelers and online shoppers.”

Card program benefits include flexible promotional financing options and no annual card fee, as well as online account activation and management.

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