CUSTOMS RULING CHALLENGED: A coalition of 97 associations and companies, including Target Corp., Neiman Marcus Group, Macy's Inc., Levi Strauss and J.C. Penney Co., sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff on Monday urging him to withdraw a proposal that could force apparel companies to pay millions of dollars in additional duties on their imports. The firms said the proposal from U.S. Customs, part of the Homeland Security agency, seeks to "overturn two decades of agency practice." The Customs plan would change a provision known as the "first sale rule" that allows firms to determine the value of an imported finished product on the cost at the point of first sale in the supply chain, such as factory to wholesaler. Customs wants to peg the final value to the point of importation, generally meaning the wholesale price. The agency said it needs to bring its rules into compliance with a decision by an advisory committee of the World Trade Organization.
SAFILO BUYS TWO: Safilo Group said it has acquired two international retail chains: Sunglass Island in Mexico and Just Spectacles in Australia. Along with the Solstice chain in the U.S. and Loop Vision in Spain, Safilo now has four operative organizations globally. Sunglass Island manages 45 stores, all of which are situated in premier locations throughout Mexico. They have been operating in the market for 15 years under the direction of the Krantzberg family, who will continue to work with Safilo, a 60 percent owner of the business. Perth-based Just Spectacles has 44 stores throughout Australia. Safilo acquired 100 percent of the chain. Regarding whether or not Safilo will change any current stores to its Solstice boutiques, chief executive officer Claudio Gottardi said, "For the moment the plan is to keep them as they are. The best locations will over time be converted to Solstice stores."