MUCHO CUSTO: Custo Barcelona, the Spanish company famed for its colorful graphic T-shirts, has inked deals to open five U.S. stores by year’s end, said Serene Cicora, a Los Angeles-based spokeswoman. The stores are expected to bring in first-year sales of $2 million to $5 million each. Designer Custo Dalmau has signed a lease for a 2,000-square-foot store at the Beverly Center in West Hollywood, Calif., scheduled to open in September. Another four stores of the same size will bow in October at the Forum Shops at Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, the North Park Center in Dallas, Bal Harbour Shops in Bal Harbour, Fla., and Florida Town Center in Boca Raton, Fla. Dalmau is also negotiating a space on Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Calif. Custo operates three stores in the U.S. — in New York, Chicago and Santa Fe, N.M. — and 22 stores worldwide.

ON THE ROAD TO MOROCCO: The U.S. and Morocco signed a bilateral free-trade agreement Tuesday, setting the stage for Congressional consideration, which is uncertain in this election year. The pact contains a yarn-forward rule of origin that requires apparel to contain either U.S. or Moroccan yarn and fabric to receive duty-free treatment, as well as allowances for some fabric and yarn outside of the U.S. and Morocco. Although it’s a small supplier of apparel and textiles to the U.S., Morocco has a well-developed textile industry, which exports primarily to the European Union.

RUSSELL BUYS AAI: Russell Corp. said it will purchase athletic equipment maker American Athletic Inc. for $13 million, in a deal expected to close later this week. AAI, based in Jefferson, Iowa, operates three plants and employs about 150 people. Plans call for AAI to remain based in Jefferson and for all the employees to remain at the firm, said a Russell spokeswoman Tuesday. Founded in 1954, AAI is projected to have wholesale volume this year of between $20 million and $22 million. It makes a wide range of equipment and apparatus for sports, including basketball, volleyball and gymnastics, and also supplies equipment to stadiums, universities and professional teams.

CASH-MERE: Dawson-Forte Cashmere Co. received a $25 million asset-based loan from Bank of America Business Capital, the lender said in a statement last week. The cash infusion will be used to refinance existing debt and stand-alone financing currently held by the company’s parent, Scotland-based Dawson International. Additionally, BoA will provide letters of credit and cash management products and services to Dawson-Forte. The company’s president, Andrew Bartmess, said in a statement the loan gives Dawson-Forte the liquidity and financial flexibility to grow its business in an improving U.S. economy. Based in South Natick, Mass., Dawson-Forte’s customers include Nordstrom, Talbots and Saks.

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