CONFLICT OF INTEREST: Aéropostale said it has ended the employment of Christopher Finazzo, the chain's executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, effective immediately. The company said Wednesday an investigation revealed that Finazzo concealed a personal ownership in, and served as an officer of, entities affiliated with one of the company's primary vendors, South Bay Apparel Inc., which Aéropostale said constitutes a conflict of interest. Julian Geiger, Aéropostale's chairman and chief executive officer, will assume the chief merchandising responsibilities while the company searches for a new chief merchant.

CHANEL'S NEW DIGS: Chanel is opening its 23rd U.S. boutique at the Gardens of the Palm Beaches mall in Palm Beach, Fla., today. It will offer a full assortment of merchandise, from ready-to-wear to accessories, including costume jewelry, watches and shoes. Architect Peter Marino, who created the 2,200-square-foot unit, used the house's global prototype for the design and layout. The boutique has an open feel, with a 117-foot-long storefront of expanses of glass that are inspired by Chanel's famous No.5 bottle. The interior features tweed furniture and tweed-like woven carpets, carbon fiber shelving and glass fiber elements on the walls.

FINLAY GROWS: Finlay Enterprises Inc., the fine jewelry retailer and largest operator of licensed fine jewelry departments in department stores, said Wednesday it had inked a stock purchase agreement to buy Congress Jewelers. Congress, with annual sales of $23 million, is a privately owned chain of five jewelry stores in Florida. The deal is still subject to closing conditions and certain consents. In May 2005, Finlay acquired Carlyle & Co., a 34-unit chain of specialty jewelry stores. Finlay had annual sales of $990.1 million last year.

GRAMICCI'S PLANS: Gramicci is partnering with Montreal-based distributor BIGroup to expand into Canada. The outdoor apparel vendor's first Canadian distributor, BIGroup serves more than 1,300 retail accounts across Canada and represents brands including Compass North, Maui, Persona and Redsand.

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