HARRODS’ EARLY WINTER: Harrods is getting a jump on the sale season, moving its annual January sale forward to Monday, Dec. 30. The store usually starts its sale — an annual feast for fashion lovers — the first Wednesday in January, which this year happens to fall on New Year’s Day. "We’ve been planning this for many, many months now. New Year’s Day usually draws fewer customers, so it made simple business sense to switch the dates," said a Harrods spokesman. Might it also have to do with Harrods’ current sales performance? As reported, for the 2001 fiscal year that ended in January 2002, the store expects to report a drop in profits. A spokesman, however, described sales in the current year as "very vigorous."

TRADE OFFICIAL LEAVING: Rosa Whitaker, who was instrumental in pushing a bill through Congress granting trade breaks to sub-Saharan African nations in 2000, is leaving her position at the Office of the U.S. Trade Representative at the end of the year. Whitaker, assistant trade representative for Africa, emphasized development of apparel and textile industries as a means to spur economic growth in underdeveloped countries. Imports from sub-Saharan African nations eligible to participate in the African Growth & Opportunity Act grew about 21 percent to 278 million square meters equivalent for the year ending August and represented 0.78 percent of the U.S. import market, according to the U.S. Commerce Department.

DIAMOND ACCORD: The World Diamond Council, the international diamond trade group, issued a statement Tuesday expressing its support for the certification scheme adopted by a meeting this week of the Kimberley Process group in Interlaken, Switzerland. Ministers from more than 50 countries endorsed intergovernmental measures to create tougher regulations and end the trade in so-called conflict diamonds. The term refers to diamonds and proceeds from diamonds which are used to support armed conflict in areas such as Angola and Sierra Leone.

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