WOMEN’S WEAR BOOSTS BOSS: Hugo Boss AG is off to a strong start this year with net earnings rising 17 percent on a sales gain of 14 percent for the first quarter. In preliminary figures released Wednesday, the Metzingen, Germany-based fashion group said net income for the quarter came in at 52 million euros, or $68.2 million, on sales of 406 million euros, or $532.8 million. Earnings before interest and taxes showed a gain of 13 percent to 77 million euros, or $101.1 million. Dollar figures are at the average exchange rate. The company noted that Boss Woman “maintained its dynamic growth” with a year-over-year sales increase of 37 percent to 26 million euros, or $34.1 million. “We once again significantly outperformed the overall fashion market in the first quarter of 2005,” said Dr. Bruno Sälzer, chairman, in a statement.

BUSH SIGNS BANKRUPTCY BILL: President Bush signed into law on Wednesday the Bankruptcy Abuse Prevention & Consumer Protection Act of 2005. The legislation is a major overhaul of the nation’s bankruptcy laws and was sought by retailers and credit card companies because it requires more people filing for Chapter 11 to repay at least a portion of their debt. The law increases the limit on purchases of luxury goods or services that can be shielded in bankruptcy. The measure makes it easier for merchants to approach debtors in bankruptcy with reaffirmation agreements that allow them to keep merchandise bought on credit by renegotiating payment schedules. It also sets a 120-day deadline for bankrupt tenants in shopping malls to decide whether they will terminate their leases.

TOMMY’S NEW CREDIT LINE: Tommy Hilfiger Corp. said Wednesday that its wholly owned subsidiary, Tommy Hilfiger USA Inc., closed on a $150 million letter of credit facility. The new financing, to be used for normal trade financing and other general purposes, replaces an existing facility that was due to expire July 1. The new facility was arranged by J.P. Morgan Securities Inc.

STAR SEARCH: Aéropostale, the mall-based specialty retailer of casual apparel and accessories, will celebrate the opening of its 600th store at the Westfield Palm Desert Shopping Center in Palm Desert, Calif., with a model search on April 28. Representatives from the Aéropostale marketing team, along with fashion photographer Sasha Eisenman, will choose one boy and one girl, above the age of 13, to be featured in an upcoming Aéropostale marketing campaign. Each winner will receive a trip for two to an undetermined location, where they will model in an Aéropostale photo shoot.

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