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Cost-U-Less and Shareholders Reach Agreement

BY CSA STAFF

Bellevue, Wash., Cost-U-Less announced Tuesday that it has reached agreement with two shareholder groups to nominate and support John Delafield to the company’s board of directors. Cost-U-Less entered into separate letter agreements with Delafield Hambrecht, Inc., and its affiliates, and with Chadwick Capital Management and its affiliates, in which the company will support Delafield in his board bid at the 2007 annual meeting of shareholders and will submit a proposal to shareholders at the 2007 annual meeting to amend the Cost-U-Less articles of incorporation to remove the requirement that a business combination be approved by holders of at least 2/3 of the outstanding common stock under certain circumstances.

In return, the two shareholder groups agreed that through the end of 2007 they would support the slate of directors nominated by the Cost-U-Less board of directors, wouldn’t nominate any candidates or propose any other business at an annual meeting, nor present any proposals for inclusion in the Cost-U-Less proxy statement or conduct any proxy solicitations.

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The Perfect Fit

BY CSA STAFF

Chico’s has created a niche catering to women 35 and older, helping them coordinate and accessorize wardrobes in sizes (0-3) that make them feel good about themselves. Service is paramount to the chain’s success. In none of the chain’s close to 600 stores will a customer find a mirror inside an individual fitting room.

Chico’s believes that by having the customer walk out of the fitting room to stand in front of a common-area mirror, the sales assistant can influence her choice of apparel and accessories.

It’s hard to argue with Chico’s successful formula, yet a new study by Chain Store Age and Leo J. Shapiro & Associates on fitting rooms, lighting and flooring suggests that for most retailers, adding a mirror would go a long way toward making the shopping experience more appealing.

Asked to imagine an ideal fitting room and what it would take to make it perfect, 29% of respondents to a national survey said a mirror, more mirrors or a three-way mirror. The desire to view oneself trailed only seating (46%) in its appeal to shoppers.

Overall, consumers said they preferred fitting rooms that could accommodate two people at once, had doors vs. curtains and had mirrors inside rather than outside. They also opted for private rather than communal fitting rooms. They’d rather not have a limit on the number of garments they brought into the fitting rooms. And they’d rather not be bothered returning unbought garments to the racks.

The data comes from a February 2007 national sample telephone survey of 813 consumers age 16 or older. It is part of an ongoing series of consumer studies conducted by Chain Store Age and Leo J. Shapiro & Associates of Chicago.

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Staples 4Q Profit Rises

BY CSA STAFF

Boston, Staples Inc. on Thursday said its fourth-quarter profit grew nearly 22% on strong sales gains for the office-products supplier’s delivery business and international operations. Results at Staples also were boosted because the quarter, ended Feb. 3, included 14 weeks rather than the usual 13 weeks. Staples also announced that it was increasing its annual cash dividend to 29? per share, up 32% from the previous year’s dividend.

Net income rose to $336.5 million from $276.7 million in the comparable period a year earlier. Sales grew 18% to $5.29 billion from $4.46 billion in the previous year’s fourth quarter, but rose at a more modest 10% not counting $370 million in sales in the latest quarter’s additional week.

Comp-store sales at North American stores increased just 1% compared with the previous year’s final quarter, based on sales running through 13 weeks of both comparison quarters, and 5% in Europe.

Staples’ North American delivery business posted a sales gain of 14% on a 13-week comparison basis, and international sales were up 11% in local currency and 22% in U.S. dollars.

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