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Industry Execs Woo Investors

Executives take to investor conferences to bolster interest in their companies.

Executives were out making their pitch to investors Wednesday, framing their stories as Wall Street remained jittery over political and economic turmoil in Europe.

The S&P Retail Index ended the day up 1.2 percent, or 7.24 points, to 604.52, as the Dow Jones Industrial Average closed down 6.66 points at 12,496.15.

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. touted its new smaller format store at the Morgan Stanley Retail & Restaurant Conference in Boston. And Saks Inc. said its men’s business was looking good, while Procter & Gamble Co. noted it was cutting costs, but not too much, at the Citi 2012 Global Consumer Conference in Manhattan.

Shares of Wal-Mart rose 1.3 percent to $64.58, as Saks gained 1.2 percent to $10.34 and P&G dipped 1.2 percent to $62.39.

Here’s what executives from the companies had to say:

Bill Simon, chief executive officer, Wal-Mart Stores U.S.

• “I’m very happy to report a rebound in our apparel business. For the first time in [a long time] we had positive comps, in fact, midsingle-digit positive comps across our apparel business.”

• “What we’re seeing is that a very basic apparel strategy in basics, with less fashion — almost no fashion — is [working], and what we call fashion basics or a mass discounter approach to apparel — that strategy is also working.”

• “We are pretty happy with the initial 10 [Wal-Mart Express stores] that we put into the ground. They’re 12,000 square feet to 15,000 square feet and there’s a bit of a hybrid between the food, pharmacy and convenience. We are very happy with the top line. What we are finding is that they’re turning profitable within 12 months.”

Stephen I. Sadove, chairman and chief executive officer, Saks Inc.

• “You have a consumer that’s discriminating. They’re interested in value and want to know that whatever they’re buying is worth it, but we’re seeing no price resistance.”

• “I feel very good about the men’s business. There’s a fashion shift within the men’s category with a slimmer fit and a little shorter length for sport jackets. There’s a move toward formalization, a cultural shift. Men are becoming a little more fashion conscious.”

• “Ellen Tracy and Dana Buchman, cornerstones of bridge, went by the wayside. We’re trying to bring a whole element of fashion to a bridge-level fit with Ralph Lauren Blue Collection, Tory Burch, Elie, M Missoni, Burberry Brit and Eileen Fisher.”

Jon Moeller, chief financial officer, Procter & Gamble Co.

• “We will not lose share as a result of pricing that is not competitive.”

• “[In February] we announced a $10 billion cost savings program. We are making progress against this, but we have a lot of work left to do.” He said $1 billion in savings will come from marketing spending, but clarified, “We are not looking to make cuts in the brand support.”

• “In today’s developed market, it’s more important than ever that we have offerings across price tiers. We need to provide value in the ways that consumers define it, which is not always [low-end] pricing.”