• MONEY MAN: Gottschalks Inc. tapped J. Gregory Ambro as chief administrative and financial officer, succeeding Michael Geele, who resigned “to pursue other opportunities” on Oct. 3. Kevin Bradshaw, vice president of finance, had taken over the company’s cfo responsibilities during the search for Geele’s replacement. Ambro comes to Gottschalks with 25 years of experience. Most recently, he was senior vice president and cfo of the now-defunct Bradlees. He also held cfo and real estate positions at Marshalls Inc. and May Department Stores Co. The Fresno, Calif.-based Gottschalks operates 75 units, mainly in California, that posted sales of $150 million in the second quarter of fiscal 2003. Net income was $25,000 in the quarter, reversing a net loss of $2.1 million the year prior. Third-quarter earnings will be released on Nov. 25. Ambro starts Thursday and reports to chief executive officer Jim Famalette.

  • SPIEGEL’S WIN: Bankrupt Spiegel Inc. on Tuesday received Manhattan bankruptcy court approval to open up to 17 Eddie Bauer stores and delay the filing of a Chapter 11 reorganization plan until Feb. 10. Store openings are an unusual move for firms in bankruptcy. In court documents, Bauer already has negotiated leases for three new sites: Colorado Springs, Colo.; South Windsor, Conn., and Lee, Mass. Four other stores are planned: one each in Alberta, Canada; Alderwood, Wash.; Short Pump, Va., and Troutdale, Ore. The remaining 10 locations have yet to be specified.

  • BURGEONING BURANI: Mariella Burani Fashion Group is back on the acquisition trail. The firm has boughtknitwear company Le Tricot Perugia SpA in a transaction valued at $6.31 million, or 5.37 million euros in local currency. Brescia, Italy-based holding company Hopa is selling Le Tricot Perugia and in exchange will buy a 5 percent stake in Mariella Burani. Hopa will purchase half of its stake from the Burani family and the other half on the stock market. Mariella Burani said the deal initiates a partnership between itself and Hopa, which can provide strategic and financial support. Le Tricot Perugia posted 2002 sales of $14.12 million (12 million euro).

  • HOLIDAY ONLINE: Early holiday shopping vaulted e-tailers into nine of the 10 Web site sectors that gained the most visitors in October, with department store sites setting the pace, comScore Media Metrix said Tuesday. Department store sites saw shoppers balloon 25 percent to 30.6 million people, or 20 percent of the country’s 150.2 million Internet users, from 24.4 million shoppers a year ago. Beauty e-tailers ranked third, with an increase of 14 percent to 9.8 million visitors, from 8.6 million, and apparel e-commerce sites placed fifth, as traffic accelerated 12.1 percent to 37.8 million people, from 33.7 million. Those visitors made the apparel sites second only to e-card sites in the number of users they drew. The e-card sites lured 38 million people, up 10.1 percent from 34.5 million last October, marking the sixth-biggest increase in online users last month.

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