Retail Stocks Tread Water Thursday

S&P Retail Index fell 0.18 points, and AnnTaylor Stores Corp. is accelerating its outlet strategy.

Retail stocks dozed Thursday, slipping fractionally despite an unexpected but welcome decline in first-time jobless claims and a bit of action on the rumor mill, which continues to produce tales — tall or not — of pending private equity takeovers.

This story first appeared in the October 29, 2010 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The S&P Retail Index fell 0.18 points, less than 0.1 percent, to 467.33 as the Dow Jones Industrial Average declined 12.33 points, or 0.1 percent, to 11,113.95. The Labor Department said initial jobless claims declined by 21,000 last week to 434,000, while economists were looking for claims to remain steady.

Despite word in the London Evening Standard that KKR and The Carlyle Group were mulling an offer of $34 a share for Macy’s Inc., the company’s stock gained just 1.1 percent to $23.29. Such rumors have been rampant over the last couple of months as private equity money, available financing, cheap retail stocks and expected tax changes have combined for an intoxicating financial brew.

But with an enterprise value of $16.6 billion, Macy’s is seen as a pretty big fish to reel in even for private equity powerhouses like KKR and Carlyle. Still, there’s a nagging sense, on the parts of both investors and bankers, that just about anything might happen.

Ann’s Outlet Extension: AnnTaylor Stores Corp. is accelerating its outlet strategy, particularly for the Loft division, by grabbing former Liz Claiborne locations. About 35 Loft outlets and five Ann Taylor Factory Stores will open during the second quarter of fiscal 2011 at outlet centers across the U.S. About $75 million in incremental fiscal 2011 revenue should be generated by the maneuver, which will be accretive to fiscal 2011 earnings and create about 1,000 jobs. Capital expenditures associated with the plan are seen at around $25 million in fiscal 2011. The company also said there are no direct costs from transferring the locations from Claiborne to Ann Taylor, which currently operates about 92 Ann Taylor outlets and 18 Loft outlets.

Frederick’s Splits With Movie Star: Frederick’s of Hollywood Group Inc. sold its Movie Star wholesale division to Dolce Vita Intimates Thursday, completing a strategic review of the division that lasted just over a month. According to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, the purchase price was about $4.5 million, including about $2.7 million for inventory, and is subject to adjustment.