COUNTER PUNCH

Byline:

I. MAGNIN GIVEAWAY: “It’s like I’ve been invited to a looting,” said one man, who strolled by I. Magnin on Union Square in San Francisco last Friday.
Signs on the front of the store said everything inside was free, and people took advantage, hauling away fixtures, file cabinets, mirrors, mannequins, displays and tables. It was a rather undignified ending for one of the most venerable retail landmarks in the country. Last month, Magnin’s ended its merchandise liquidation. Alonzo Miller, a San Francisco fashion designer, carried out a mannequin and tables, while amid the first floor’s etched mirrors and ornate chandeliers, people rifled through piles of Prescriptives leftover from the liquidation. In the second floor Giorgio Armani Le Collezioni boutique, they pocketed looseleaf books labeled “holiday sales 1993” or “vendor unit sales.”
The building’s owner is reportedly trying to sell it, but Federated Department Stores said it has a 60-day option on the lease.

NOT MAKING GRADE: Moody’s Investor Service downgraded Melville Corp.’s debt ratings, largely because of Marshalls, its troubled off-price division.
The rating on Melville’s senior debt was lowered to A2 from Aa3, and senior subordinated notes were downgraded to A3 from A1. About $304.3 million in debt was affected.
Moody’s based its downgrade, in part, on “continuing lackluster performance” and said Melville is burdened by high fixed rent expenses.
“The increase in discount stores for apparel, combined with sharper pricing at department stores will continue to pressure margins at Marshalls, Melville’s second largest division,” Moody’s noted.
Weaker earnings at Marshalls and losses at Wilson’s, the leather goods chain, offset earnings and sales momentum at the CVS drugstores, Moody’s said.

TALBOTS TAKING STOCK: The Talbots Inc. said it intends to buy back up to 1 million shares of its stock over the next two years.
Arnold Zetcher, president and chief executive officer, said “Current market conditions present a particularly attractive investment opportunity for the company.” At current prices, the full cost of the buyback would be about $32 million.
Talbots said it will buy a proportionate number of shares from Jusco Co. Ltd., which owns 63.4 percent of Talbots’ stock, and public shareholders. Jusco, a Tokyo-based retail conglomerate, was sole owner of Talbots prior to its November 1993 initial public offering.
Talbots went public at $19.50 a share and now trades in the low $30 range.

QUITTING TIME: After a 39-year career that took him to nine different Marshall Field’s department stores, Guy Dixon has retired from retailing. His last position was manager of Field’s Stratford Square store in the Chicago suburb of Bloomingdale.
Dixon joined Marshall Fields as a merchandise trainee after graduating the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1956 and was first named a store manager in 1976.

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