MAGNIN'S GOODBY SALE MOBBED

Byline: Kim-Van Dang, with contributions from Jeff Siegel, New York

SAN FRANCISCO--Cool temperatures, gusty winds and intermittent showers could not keep thousands of shoppers from the I. Magnin liquidation sale, which began last weekend.
The "Farewell Sale," as the specialty chain billed it, offered 20 percent reductions storewide, excluding cosmetics, with no returns or exchanges.
But the low markdowns and restrictions did nothing to dampen the holiday shopping mood on Union Square. By the 8 a.m. opening Friday, lines wrapped around the flagship unit and did not abate all day.
According to a spokeswoman, 50,000 people shopped the store here Friday. Overall, at the 12 I. Magnin department stores and one outlet store, there were 150,000 shoppers during the day.
Another 100,000 shoppers visited the 13 stores Saturday. A group called In Defense of Animals--waving placards that read, "Fur Shame"--added to the crowds at the Union Square flagship. Fur coats also were marked down 20 percent.
Store officials declined to provide sales figures for the liquidation sale, but business was clearly better than it had been for months.
Magnin, a division of R.H. Macy & Co., lost money consistently during Macy's Chapter 11 proceedings and was beset by a "myriad" of problems, according to Macy's bankruptcy attorney.
Richard Krasner, of Weil, Gotshal & Manges, said Magnin had posted operating losses since the beginning of Macy's Chapter 11 bankruptcy in January 1992. Magnin's contribution to Macy's sales fell to "a little more than 4 percent" this year from 5.2 percent in 1992. Magnin's total sales, including catalog revenues, were $360 million last year.
Krasner spoke in New York last week at a bankruptcy court hearing in which Macy's got the go-ahead to close the 118-year-old Magnin's. The liquidation is a result of the upcoming merger between Macy's and Federated Department Stores.
When the doors opened Friday at the Union Square flagship, shoppers were pushing and cutting in line; at one point, guards threatened to close the store.
Once inside, shoppers short on cash put items on hold, ran out to automated teller machines for more money and stood in line again--often for up to 45 minutes--waiting to get back inside and complete their purchases.
Like many who came looking for a bargain, Susanne Anderson of San Francisco was hard-pressed to find one.
"I bought four pair of Donna Karan hose for $40," she said. "That's not very good."
Dana Wong, who said she has been coming here from Hawaii every Thanksgiving for 15 years, shopped with her mother, Teresa Martone of Riverside County in Southern California. This year's excursion was worth it. Wong said she bought $200 worth of Wacoal lingerie, noting, "That brand is never on sale."
Several blocks away, Nordstrom on Market Street matched Magnin's discount and several savvy shoppers spent time there instead.
The St. John department was especially busy. A Nordstrom spokeswoman said the 20 percent-off sale on all items was chainwide.
Robert Gray, chairman of St. John, said Monday he had not been able to verify Nordstrom's move, but that it did not bother him. "We understand that Nordstrom has a policy of matching prices and we respect their policy," he said.
Gray added that his people had pulled most of their product from I. Magnin "just before the sale broke."
Barbara Cirkva, senior vice president of Chanel, said a week prior to the sale, the company requested that all its fashion products be returned, including ready-to-wear, accessories, shoes and fine watches.

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