OPERATIONS

Stein Mart appoints interim CEO

BY Staff Writer

Jacksonville, Fla. — Stein Mart announced the appointment of Jay Stein as interim CEO, effective immediately, following the retirement of David H. Stovall, Jr., who has held that position since 2008.

The company also announced the formation of a search committee of the board of directors led by Robert Mettler who serves as chair of the strategic planning committee of the board.

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FINANCE

ICSC calls for 3% gain in holiday sales, down from 4.1% in 2010

BY Marianne Wilson

New York City — The International Council of Shopping Centers said it expects holiday sales to increase 3% this year, which is below the 4.1% gain in 2010.

Holiday sales are expected to reach $250.2 billion, the highest since the 2007 peak, when spending totaled $251.7 billion, according to the group, whose forecast is among the first to come out for the holiday 2011 shopping season.

The ICSC predicted that holiday same-store sales will rise 3.5%, slightly lower than the 3.8% pace in 2010.

"The sales trends paint a continued picture of unevenness," said Michael P. Niemira, ICSC’s chief economist. "Luxury spending continues to be strong and consistent. Wholesale clubs are doing very well. The mid-tier retailers are seeing mixed performance. And the low-end retailers are a bit more challenged."

Luxury retailers are expected to perform best, with predictions for a 7.5% same-store sales increase. Niemira predicted that discounters’ sales would rise 2.5%.

Rising basic household costs in food and gas along with a weak job market are driving a wider wedge between the wealthy and everyone else. Wal-Mart Stores, the world’s largest retailer, cited in August that its low-income shoppers are having a harder time stretching their dollars to the next payday than they did a year ago.

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OPERATIONS

Court blocks Costco gender bias suit

BY Marianne Wilson

New York City — Costco Wholesale Corp won a federal appeals court decision that blocks women who accused the company of gender bias from suing as a group. Although the ruling overturns a judge’s decision to expand a suit filed by three women to include hundreds of female workers, the court left open the possibility that the case could again be brought as a class action.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said a lower court judge failed to properly decide whether there was enough "commonality" among the female Costco plaintiffs to justify class certification. It sent the case back to the lower court judge to determine whether she could certify a class under a different federal rule.

The Costco case involved about 600 current and former employees who accused the chain of making it harder for women to be promoted to general manager or assistant general manager.

Both sides said they were happy with the court’s most recent decision.

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