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West Elm to launch local small business grant contest

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Brooklyn, N.Y. — Home furnishings retailer West Elm is launching what it calls “We Love Local Small Business Grant” contest, designed to support U.S.-based artists, makers and designers as they grow and scale their businesses.

The contest launches Aug. 12 with open online submissions, followed by in-store portfolio reviews in five stores across the country. The public will vote online for one of 20 finalists selected by West Elm, and the winner will be announced on Nov. 19.

The winner will receive $25,000, business support, and mentorship from the West Elm team, as well as a chance to be included in the Best of Local Assortment available to customers nationwide this holiday season on westelm.com.

“We are at the height of a maker revolution in the United States,” said West Elm president Jim Brett. “Every time I visit our stores and meet artists and makers in our communities, I’m blown away by the small-scale manufacturing and design that’s happening in our own backyards.”

The We Love Local Small Business Grant is part of West Elm’s Local initiative, which brings regionalized assortments to West Elm stores across the country. West Elm Local currently includes more than 1,000 products from more than 160 artists and makers. Local assortments are available in 16 West Elm stores and by the end of 2014 will be in eight additional stores. This holiday season, West Elm will launch the Best of Local Assortment on westelm.com with 20 of the best-selling makers and more than 60 products available to online customers.

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Darden completes repurchase of $900 million of $1 billion debt retirement

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Orlando, Fla. — Darden Restaurants, Inc., which operates the Olive Garden and LongHorn Steakhouse banners among others, has completed the repurchase of approximately $900 million of the previously announced $1 billion debt retirement, leaving approximately $1.6 billion of debt on its balance sheet.

The remaining $100 million of debt has been called for redemption and is expected to be retired later this month, according to the company, which used after-tax proceeds from its sale of Red Lobster to consummate the debt retirement and to initiate a $500 million accelerated stock buyback program.

With the closing of the debt retirement, the company is affirming its fiscal 2015 outlook.

"The completion of this tender offer further reinforces Darden’s strong financial foundation,” said Chuck Ledsinger, non-executive chairman of the board of Darden. “In addition to the debt reduction, the Red Lobster sale proceeds also enable us to increase our capital return to shareholders and support the company’s current dividend despite the change in our operating structure following the sale."

The Red Lobster sale was completed on July 28.

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Calloway’s Nursery names VP marketing

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Fort Worth, Texas — Calloway’s Nursery has named Alicia Hicks as VP marketing, effective Aug. 5. Hicks formerly served as Calloway’s director of retail marketing.

With her promotion, Hicks will oversee marketing for all aspects of Calloway’s Nursery, which includes 17 Calloway’s Nursery locations in Dallas/Fort Worth, as well as two Cornelius Nursery locations in Houston. She will develop strategic marketing plans and customer experience initiatives for both Calloway’s and Cornelius brands across all retail locations.

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