WESTON’S SHOO-IN: Galen Weston on Friday cleared an important hurdle in his bid for Selfridges when Aletheia Partners said it was no longer planning a rival bid for the store. “In light of the continuing uncertainty regarding the general retail trading environment, Aletheia Partners, together with its consortium of equity investors, has decided not to proceed with a bid,” a statement from Aletheia said. As reported, Aletheia had given 4:30 pm on Friday as a deadline to announce its decision whether or not to proceed with a bid. A spokesperson for Weston said, “We are delighted that this has now removed the uncertainty surrounding Selfridges. Our offer remains open until the 10th of July. We look forward to receiving acceptances from shareholders.” Weston currently holds some 49,145,136 Selfridges shares, or about 31.8 percent of the existing issued share capital of the store. His bid will become unconditional when he holds 50 percent or more of Selfridges’ shares. — Samantha Conti

FREQUENT FLIER: Fast fashion is taking to the skies. Inditex’s best-selling brand, Zara, opened its first travel store last month in Barcelona’s El Prat airport. With roughly 4,600 square feet of selling space, the new location carries women’s, mainly the Zara Woman line and coordinated accessories; men’s wear, and a small selection of baby clothes. Could it be the start of something big? Not necessarily, according to a spokeswoman for the La Coruña-based parent company. “No more airport stores are planned, at least not short-term,” she said. Renovated in 1991 by local architect Ricardo Bofill, the Barcelona airport is made up of three terminals, with Zara located where domestic travelers depart. Traffic is estimated at about 16 million passengers a year. — Barbara Barker

CLOSING COST: Groupe Clarins said last week the total cost to shut down its money-losing Thierry Mugler fashion house would be disclosed on Sept. 11, in tandem with first-half earnings. Out of a total of 210 Mugler fashion staff members in France, 102 employees are being assisted under a redundancy program. Some 56 employees were transferred to Balmain, which is taking over the Mugler factor in Angers, France, plus four stores, as reported. Balmain has said it will elaborate on its expansion plans when it names a new artistic director for couture and ready-to-wear later this month. The takeover of the Mugler locations brings to 10 the number of Balmain shops worldwide. Meanwhile, Clarins plans to concentrate on Mugler fragrances. — Miles SochaSLOW GROWTH SUMMER: Year-on-year retail sales in Britain rose 0.1 percent in June — the first monthly increase since January — while shopper numbers in London and the southeast of England climbed 0.3 percent, according to SPSL, a European retail traffic analyst. “The upturn last month was born out of both a busy school half-term break, and a good start to the summer sales,” Tim Denison, a director at SPSL, said in a statement. “Retailers seem to have been quick to detect the consumer’s return to form, and have nurtured the revival by moving to sale a little early.” That said, June 2002 was an unusually poor month for retail sales, because of an extra-long Golden Jubilee holiday weekend and the soccer World Cup. — S.C.

DOWN TIME: Swiss watch exports continued to slow in May, according to a Morgan Stanley report. Exports were down in volume terms 36 percent, which compares with a decline of 22 percent in April. The year-to-date decline is 12.6 percent. Exports were down in value terms 12 percent in May, compared with 4 percent in April, with the year-to-date decline 6.5 percent. The figures imply a major increase in average price points for watch exports and suggest the high-end watch industry is outperforming the rest. — Emilie Marsh

PRIVATE CIRCLE: Steilmann Group, one of the Germany’s largest apparel producers, said 2002 sales fell 9.3 percent to $585.6 million, but the profit picture improved. Dollar figures have been converted from the euro at current exchange. Profits were not disclosed. Since Britta Steilmann took over the reins of the family company in 2001, Steilmann eliminated 1,200 jobs in Germany and overseas, bringing its workforce down to 11,600, but lifting the bottom line. Exports grew to 45.7 percent from 43.5 percent. Marks & Spencer remains Steilmann’s largest customer, and the company is looking to expand its private label activities, especially in Europe. — Melissa Drier

FLAG WAVER: When Feraud opens its Paris flagship on Rue Saint Honore later this month, it will have more room to show off a host of new product categories. The French fashion house, majority owned by Escada, just signed a licensing agreement with Florence-based Koblot for women’s and men’s leather goods. The debut collection, spanning bags, luggage, small leather goods and belts, will bow at the store. Coming next spring are costume jewelry and watches, produced under license by International Jewellery Design Co. And Feraud managing director Francois-Xavier de Monts said an eyewear deal is in the works, too. — M.S.EYE SPY: British designer John Richmond is branching out into eyewear through a licensing deal with IT Holding unit Allison. The pact is for five years, renewable for another five years and covers the production and distribution of prescription eyewear and sunglasses. The items are expected to generate sales of about $86.6 million, or 75 million euros, in the first five years. The first collection, featuring about 30 styles in 100 variations, are slated for introduction at the Silmo trade fair in Paris in October. Richmond, backed by Italian entrepreneur Saverio Moschillo, said the deal will help him express his “interpretation of luxury rock ’n’ roll all over the world.” — Amanda Kaiser

CLOUDY WEATHER: Hit by a drop in tourism, the war in Iraq, SARS and the strong euro, sales at France’s Group Printemps, part of the Pinault-Printemps-Redoute retail and luxury conglomerate, were “almost stable” for the first six months of the year, according to president Laurence Danon. While sales sputtered at the group’s flagship Boulevard Haussmann store in Paris, its 16 additional Printemps stores across France picked up the slack, added Danon. She attributed this to fewer tourists at Haussmann and that French shoppers were staying closer to home. Overall sales in the first quarter rose about 2 percent, while they dropped about 2 percent in the second three-month period. Besides the Printemps department stores, the group also counts PPR’s sports retailing branch of 19 Made in Sport shops and the Citadium sports megastore in Paris. Sales in the sports division increased 10 percent in the first half, buoying the group’s overall results. Meanwhile, Danon said sales for the first week of the summer sales season had been robust: up 12 percent at Printemps’ Haussmann store, and up 14 percent for its other 16 stores. Danon did not provide figures in currency terms. — Robert Murphy

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