AND THE WINNER IS: Sears Merchandise Group’s 13th annual “Partners in Progress” award went to Los Angeles-based Jerry Leigh as apparel source of the year. Leigh supplies Sears with junior knit and woven tops, pants and some maternity wear. Other apparel winners were Levi Strauss & Co. for men’s wear, and Dallas-based Verilyte Gold, for developing a children’s jewelry line, bracelet program and a 10-karat value-priced earring program. Each year, Sears recognizes its sources for delivering value and service. This year, 97 companies were chosen from more than 10,000 sources.

MICKEY WEEK: Although he won’t be 66 until November, Mickey Mouse is celebrating his birthday with Venture Stores April 17-23. The 104-store chain will offer discounts on licensed Disney products, birthday cake, personalized birthday cards from Mickey and a sweepstakes to win a trip to Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

KMART TAPS RAGO: Kmart Corp. has named Virginia G. Rago divisional vice president of information systems for its fashion division in North Bergen, N.J. Rago reports to David M. Carlson, senior vice president of corporate information systems.

PROFITS TOUGHER TO FIND: While many mass merchants continue to register gains, spurred by a consumer quest for value, the fourth quarter of 1993 has been tough on some discounters’ bottom lines.

ShopKo Stores, a regional discounter based in Green Bay, Wis., blamed competitive pricing pressure, higher promotional activity and lower-than-expected apparel sales for earnings plummeting 41.5 percent in the fourth quarter and 35.8 percent in the year ended Feb. 26.

For the quarter, earnings were $10.2 million, or 32 cents a share, against $17.5 million, or 55 cents, a year ago. Sales rose 7.9 percent, to $462.6 million from $428.8 million and same-store sales grew 3.7 percent.

For the year, earnings totaled $32.1 million, or $1, down from $50.1 million, or $1.56. Sales were virtually flat at $1.7 billion, while same- store sales rose 1.2 percent.

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