HEADING NEXT DOOR: Spain’s giant department store chain, El Corte Inglés, plans a second commercial center in Portugal by the end of 2005, sources for the Portuguese division confirmed. With an investment of 150 million euros, or about $175 million at current exchange, construction will begin on the 450,000-square-foot location in late November in Vila Nova de Gaia, across the Duero River from Oporto in the north of Portugal. It is expected to create 1,500 jobs. El Corte Inglés opened its first retail unit in Lisbon in November 2001. The Lisbon store, the chain’s only international locale, recorded a first-year net profit of $1.4 million on sales of $220.4 million for the year ended Feb. 28, 2003. El Corte Inglés’ retail conglomerate in Spain includes 60 stores, 30 Hipercor hypermarkets and 10 Sfera shops, a fast-fashion chain launched last year. — Barbara Barker

Eyewear group Marcolin has signed a licensing pact with outdoor specialist Timberland Company for eyewear. The contract has an initial term of four years. Marcolin will launch the new sunglasses and ophthalmic frames at New York’s Vision Expo East in March. “With our heritage as a brand that equips consumers for the outdoors, it’s critical that we continue to build a strong eyewear business that is focused on superior product and strategic distribution,” Patrick Baboin, vice president of worldwide licensing for Timberland, said in a release. — Amanda Kaiser

Paris mayor Bertrand Delanoë and the French Ready-to-Wear Federation last week signed an agreement to help fledgling designers get off the ground. At a press conference, the city said it would meet with budding designers in order to discuss the best plan of action for the city’s support. Besides providing grants, the plan also calls for advantageous commercial leases and use of city-owned property. Meanwhile, the federation said it would provide managerial and financial assistance and advice on communications and press coverage. The city and the federation said they also would provide promotional opportunities such as exhibits at the Galliera fashion museum, fashion shows and educational opportunities. About 70 designers already have been contacted by the two entities. — Emilie Marsh

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