BACK IN BLACK: C&A, Germany’s third largest apparel retailer, has turned the corner. Two years ago, the chain, which operates 185 C&A doors in Germany and 279 elsewhere in Europe, was mired in losses. But a concentration on moderate, value-for-money apparel and a fresh, new, easy-to-shop retail environment seem to have paid off. Net earnings in Germany for the fiscal year ended Feb. 28 tripled to $125 million, and German sales were up 2 percent to about $3.3 billion. Dollar figures are converted from euros at current exchange rates. Once derided as “Cheap & Awful” in Germany by the very youth its trendy ads tried to attract, C&A switched to a more mainstream ad style, upping the German ad budget 10 percent to $117 million. While modernizing the last 40 old-style units, C&A also is expanding its C&A Kids chain, and a C&A Woman concept is being tested in Bremen and Lindau, with three new German doors to follow. — Melissa Drier

ENDANGERED SPECIES: French shoppers on the hunt for great fakes should take heed. The French luxury goods trade association, Comité Colbert, has launched an anticounterfeiting campaign designed to discourage travelers from bringing back bogus watches, handbags and apparel. More than 10,000 posters depicting fake Lacoste, Hermès, Chanel, Dior and Cartier products are going up at 200 customs borders in France. The accompanying text aims to deter shoppers by reminding them that the purchase of counterfeit products is considered a major infraction, contributing to forced child labor and illegal drug and arms trafficking. The posters also underline that importing counterfeit products is punishable by fines of up to $300,000 and up to three years in jail. Five of the top six brands that suffer from forgeries in the European Union are French, according to the Comité Colbert. More than 100 million fakes were confiscated in the E.U. last year, including 1.2 million in France. The campaign is scheduled to last until the end of October. — Emilie Marsh

BOOTED OUT: The Boots Group plc said it will ax 500 jobs from its Nottingham, England, head office over the next six months. John McGrath, chairman, warned that there would be more job losses to come, although he declined to give numbers. The losses, mainly from IT, human resources and finance departments, are part of a $167 million cost-saving program called “Getting in Shape” that was introduced last November. The announcement came as Boots reported a 25 percent loss in net income for the year ended March 31, to $493 million. — E.M.WESTON STEPS CLOSER TO SELFRIDGES: Canadian billionaire Galen Weston has boosted his stake in Selfridges to 25.71 percent as part of his bid to take over the London-based department store chain. Weston’s company, Oxford Acquisitions Limited, said in a statement Friday that since mid-May, it had purchased more than 24 million shares — or 15.61 percent of the company — from shareholders. As reported, the Selfridges board has recommended Weston’s bid, which is valued at approximately $1.14 billion. His offer went out to shareholders last month, and the first closing date was Thursday. Shareholders have until June 19 to sell their shares. — Samantha Conti

TOM-TOM CLUB: The German retail market may be in the dumps, but that hasn’t stopped Tommy Hilfiger from opening three stores there in the last nine months, bringing the total to five. A Hilfiger flagship bowed in Düsseldorf last August, Hamburg followed in March and last month, the designer added a 7,900-square-foot flagship in Berlin. Housed in a former cinema on the city’s key shopping street, Kurfürstendamm, the store retained the balconies for displays and part of the screen above a jeans wall for projecting rock videos. Tommy Hilfiger Europe operates 83 stores in Europe and the Middle East, including ones in London, Manchester, Saint-Tropez, Istanbul, Amsterdam, Athens, Rotterdam, Vienna and Kitzbühel. Openings in Barcelona and a second door in Antwerp are set for this year. While acknowledging the challenging economy in Germany, Avery Baker, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Tommy Hilfiger Europe, characterized it as “our strongest market in Europe,” accounting for a fifth of its turnover. Hilfiger’s European sales reached $275.8 million in fiscal 2002, up 44.2 percent. Sales growth of more than 20 percent in Europe is forecast for fiscal 2004. — M.D.

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