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Results of strike authorization vote by California grocery workers due Thursday

BY CSA STAFF

New York City — More than 60,000 Southern California grocery workers cast their votes on Wednesday whether to authorize a strike if contract talks with three of the nation’s largest supermarket chains break down. A two-thirds majority vote was needed for passage.

The talks are with The Vons Cos.; Ralphs Grocery Co., a subsidiary of The Kroger Co.; and Albertsons, owned by Supervalu.

The last contract expired on March 6, and employees continue working under its provisions on a day-to-day basis. However, the union contends that company negotiators have failed to provide a comprehensive proposal regarding pay and health benefits.

"Management’s unwillingness to negotiate in good faith, and instead play chicken with the well-being of their employees and employees’ families is wrong," Local 770 President Rick Icaza said in a statement.

The companies said the strike-authorization vote is premature.

"Ralphs is committed to the negotiations process, and while we have difficult issues to work through, the best thing to do is work together on solutions and reach an agreement," Ralphs spokeswoman Kendra M. Doyel said in a statement.

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Report: Borders seeking more funding

BY CSA STAFF

New York City — Borders is seeking at least $50 million in additional financing as sales trail expectations and publishers demand cash in advance, according to two people who have seen the chain’s plans to reorganize, Bloomberg reported. The bankrupt retailer already has a $505 million debtor-in-possession loan from lenders led by GE Capital.

Borders may risk liquidation without further investment, easier terms from vendors or a buyer, said the people, who declined to be identified because the process isn’t public, the report said.

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Claire’s Q4 comps up 3.2%

BY CSA STAFF

Chicago — Teen retailer Claire’s Stores provided some hope that discretionary spending is improving by reporting net sales of $421.9 million for the fiscal 2010 fourth quarter, an increase of $11.2 million, or 2.7% compared with the fiscal 2009 fourth quarter. Consolidated same-store sales increased 3.2% in the fiscal 2010 fourth quarter consisting of a 4.7% increase in North America and a 0.6% increase in Europe.

CEO Gene Kahn commented, "We are coming off a very strong global performance in 2010 having posted a positive 6.5% same-store sales increase for the year with a positive 7.8% increase in North America and a 4.3% increase in Europe. We are encouraged by the fact that we have had five straight quarters of same-store sales growth. While we benefited to some degree by the stabilization of the broader economy, we were still well positioned at the forefront of our peer group of specialty retailers."

Kahn continued, "In 2011, we will continue to drive organic growth through our merchandise, stores and customer offense. In addition, we intend to increase our global reach through further new store expansion, on both an owned and franchised basis, and new distribution channels. We are particularly excited about our upcoming launch of e-commerce in the U.S. this summer and the associated brand enhancement that it will provide."

Net sales in fiscal 2010 were $1,426.4 million, an increase of $84.0 million, or 6.3%, compared with 2009. Consolidated same-store sales increased 6.5% in fiscal 2010. In North America, same-store sales increased 7.8% in fiscal 2010 while Europe same-store sales increased 4.3%.

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