• HOMEBODIES: Skittish shoppers are taking a toll on major retail chains, but Housing Works seems to be cashing in on consumers’ newfound thriftiness. Earlier this month, the company opened a TriBeCa store at 72 Warren Street, and late next month, its ninth store, a unit at 130 Crosby Street in New York, will bow. In addition, Sears and Kmart have signed up as sponsors of the nonprofit’s Design on a Dime charity event on May 7, which will feature 50 designers, including Charlotte Moss, John Bartlett and Ty Pennington, among others.
This story first appeared in the March 31, 2009 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.
• HARPER QUITS THEO FENNELL: Pamela Harper has resigned as chief executive officer of Theo Fennell Plc, the London-based fine jewelry house, the company said Monday. Barbara Snoad — whom Harper had originally replaced in late 2007 — will assume Harper’s duties on an interim basis. Sources close to the company said it’s possible Snoad’s appointment could become permanent. Harper, a former Burberry executive, joined Fennell in 2007. The firm’s sales fell 21 percent during the five weeks of December, compared with the same period the previous year, and the company expects to take a loss for the 2008-09 fiscal period. Fennell has shelved plans for a New Bond Street store, and has not renewed its contracts to operate the luxury watch and fine jewelry concessions in Harrods or Brown Thomas in Dublin. Sources have said the company’s decision to no longer operate those departments will result in cash benefits totaling 3 million pounds, or $4.3 million. Fennell will continue to operate its own retail counters at Brown Thomas and Harrods.
• AGENT PROVOCATEUR SALES RISE: Agent Provocateur’s upscale lingerie seems to be weathering the economic downturn. The company said sales rose 26 percent in the year ended March 31, 2008, to 20.7 million pounds, or $41.4 million. All dollar figures have been calculated at average exchange rates for the period. Sales to date for the year ending March 31, 2009 are up 8 percent compared with the same period last year. The private equity group 3i acquired Agent Provocateur for an estimated $123 million in 2007. Because of investment in the brand, 3i said Agent Provocateur’s EBITDA for the 2008 fiscal year fell 18.5 percent to 2.2 million pounds, or $4.4 million. The company said it has invested 4.5 million pounds, or $6.5 million at current exchange, since 3i acquired the label, in projects including opening 13 new stores, a new IT system and a head office relocation.