REAL ESTATE

Wilsons Will Close Most of Its Stores

BY CSA STAFF

Minneapolis Wilsons The Leather Experts Inc. will close the majority of its 260 mall locations and cut more than 1,000 jobs, the company said Friday.

Wilsons will keep 100 stores open, revamping them under its new “Studio” concept, which is focused on fashion accessories from major brands for women. All stores should be remodeled by August.

About 938 store-related jobs and 64 positions at the company’s corporate headquarters, overseas offices and distribution center in Brooklyn Park, Minn., will be cut. Wilsons’ 120 outlet stores will not be affected.

“We expect the cost reduction initiative will enable us to reduce our working capital needs and strengthen our business, as well as provide capital for our remodel efforts to convert all remaining mall stores into our new ‘Studio’ concept,” said Mike Searles, company chief executive, in a statement.

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Senate looks to block retail banking ventures

BY CSA STAFF

WASHINGTON Retailers looking to own banks face a new roadblock, now that the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee voted to approve a bill that would limit the type of businesses that could own industrial loan companies.

According to reports, the committee voted 11 to 10 to draft a bill presented by Chairman Christopher Dodd, D-Conn., that would prohibit non-financial companies from owning banks. The deal would not affect companies, that already own industrial loan companies, however they would be subject to additional regulation, reports said.

The vote was divided amongst democrats and republicans, with republicans opposed to the bill. Sen. Robert Bennet, R-Utah, reportedly stated that the banks are needed to supply credit to niche markets, and that there have been no issues with existing commercially owned international loan companies.

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Liz Claiborne cautious on 4Q estimates

BY CSA STAFF

NEW YORK Liz Claiborne today pre-announced an expected earnings loss of 25 cents to 35 cents per share for the year 2007, compared to diluted earnings per share of $2.46 for the full year 2006. The company added that adjusted diluted EPS for the year 2007 are currently estimated to be in the range of $1.25 to $1.35, compared to previous adjusted diluted EPS guidance of $1.70 to $1.80. Adjusted diluted EPS were $2.99 for the year 2006.

Liz Claiborne reported that net sales for the year 2007 were approximately $4.6 billion, a decrease of 1.4% from the comparable 2006 year. According to the company, the predicted results reflect continued weakness in the partnered brands segment, which includes the brands under strategic review, partially offset by positive performance in the direct brands segment.

For the fourth quarter of 2007, the company expects to report a loss per share of 90 cents to $1.00, compared to diluted EPS of 71 cents for the fourth quarter 2006. Adjusted diluted EPS for the fourth quarter of 2007 is currently estimated to be in the range of 15 cents to 25 cents compared to adjusted diluted EPS of 94 cents for the fourth quarter 2006. Net sales for the fourth quarter of 2007 were approximately $1.2 billion, a decrease of 3% from the comparable 2006 period.

William McComb, ceo of Liz Claiborne, said: “While 2007 marked a very difficult period, we see the fundamentals in this company heading in the right direction. We are steadfast in our commitment to rebase our costs, to invest in design and retail capabilities, and to complete our strategic review by the end of the first quarter. The conservative view we are taking in our 2008 guidance-specifically around our partnered brands performance-is only prudent given the challenging retail environment.”

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