A.B.S. TEAMS UP WITH AJS: A.B.S. by Allen Schwartz has signed two licensing agreements with New York-based AJS Group. AJS Group will manufacture and distribute a contemporary jeanswear line, which will include tops and bottoms in fabrics such as denim, corduroy, and washed twills, and outerwear under the A.B.S Jeans label. AJS Group will also manufacture and distribute girls’ jeans, sportswear, activewear, outerwear, dresses and swimwear in sizes 0-16 under the A.B.S by Allen Schwartz label. The fall A.B.S Jeans line, wholesaling in the range of $30 to $65, will be available in stores in September. The A.B.S. by Allen Schwartz girls’ line, wholesaling from approximately $20 to $40, will launch for spring 2006 retailing. AJS is a venture between Parigi Group Ltd. and Check Group LLC, both based in New York.

CLOSE ON BANKRUPTCY: The U.S. Senate on Tuesday moved a step closer to passing a bankruptcy reform bill, a legislative priority of department stores, mass merchants and credit card companies. Lawmakers voted 69-31 to curtail debate on the measure, which signals that Senate passage is almost certain. A final vote is expected as early as today. The measure would create a means test making it tougher to erase all debts under Chapter 7 of federal bankruptcy law. Chances of the bill’s eventual passage in the House also were greatly improved when a Senate amendment failed on a 46-53 vote that would have prevented financial judgments against abortion clinic vandals and violent protesters to be erased in bankruptcy.

SAKS INC. ON CREDITWATCH:  Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services placed Saks Inc. on “CreditWatch” Monday with negative implications. The ratings agency said the action followed the release of the retailer’s fourth-quarter and full-year results for 2004. Standard & Poor’s said the retailer’s results showed a “continued trend of lackluster earnings performance and relatively weak cash flow protection.” Gerald Hirschberg, analyst at the ratings firm, said, “We expect that management will continue to be challenged to generate, and then sustain, improving trends in business fundamentals at the company’s two distinctly different department store segments.”

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