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GATHERING STEAM: Old Navy’s operating margin hit 10 percent in 1996, two years earlier than was expected by retail analyst Todd Slater at Lazard Freres. In a Feb. 28 report on Gap Inc., Slater said, “We continue to be very impressed by the success of Old Navy, which has achieved an estimated $850 million in sales and $82 million in earnings in just 3 1/2 years.”
While noting Gap’s “conservative” outlook calls for flat operating margins at Old Navy in 1997, Slater forecast that the specialty discounter’s margins can “continue to expand as it gains improved economies of scale.” This year, the biggest chunk of Gap’s growth is the 193-unit Old Navy, which plans to open 75 units. Overall, Gap aims to open 275 stores this year, including 70 Gap stores, 70 Gap Kids, 30 Banana Republics and 30 locations abroad. The expansion will boost Gap’s square footage by 18 percent, compared to 14 percent in 1996.

TIME AND AGAIN: While it hasn’t yet caught the fancy of the masses, the Kmart at Broadway and Eighth Street in Manhattan’s Greenwich Village was busy Feb. 22, when it became the scene of a 50th wedding anniversary bash for Richard and Helen Oyer. The couple first met on the site, when it was a Wanamaker’s store.
“We got the request from the couple’s granddaughter, and let the family use the Kmart Cafe for the Saturday night party,” a Kmart spokesman said. “Our neighborhood stores sometimes get these kinds of inquiries.”
Kmart let the Oyers use the cafe space free of charge, said the spokesman, adding, “We like to see area residents take this kind of ‘ownership’ interest in our stores.”

WOOLWORTH’S NEW FACE: Woolworth Corp. has named Juris Pagrabs as vice president of investor relations. The post had been open since Roy L. Garofalo retired two years ago, a spokeswoman said.
The appointment by the general merchandiser and specialty retailer came just a week after Woolworth and three other stocks were replaced in the Dow Jones Industrial Average by the stock of four other firms, including Wal-Mart Stores.
The spokeswoman declined comment on whether the Dow Jones action had sparked the appointment of Pagrabs.
Woolworth’s stock slid 1 1/2 to close at 22 7/8 on the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday and has ranged from a high of 25 1/4 to a low of 14 7/8 over the past 12 months.
Pagrabs, who reports to chairman and chief executive officer Roger Farah, joins Woolworth’s from OfficeMax, where he was vice president of investor relations. Woolworth’s has been struggling but has begun turnaround efforts by selling off and closing down unproductive businesses.

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