CORRIDOR TALK: THE HOT TOPICS

Byline:

NEW YORK — The National Retail Federation convention is the industry’s biggest forum for exchanging ideas, and for all-around schmoozing.
This year, the gossip between sessions centered on the most troubled chains and the takeover targets. For a change, bankruptcies and home shopping took a back seat.
These retailers were the most frequent subjects of speculation:
The Broadway. As one competitor said, “It has big problems. No identity. They’re sandwiched between May Department Stores and Macy’s. What’s their reason for being? They also need to put lots of money into their stores. They’re in bad shape.” Situated in the struggling California economy doesn’t help.
Kmart Corp. “That’s a bigger turnaround job than Sears,” said one executive, who noted that Joseph Antonini, who was stripped of his chairmanship this week, remains president and ceo, and is clearly in the hot seat. Wal-Mart and Target are eating Kmart’s lunch.
Younkers. It’s continuing to fight the takeover attempt by Carson Pirie Scott, although other retailers believe Carson’s will eventually prevail. Tom Gould could emerge as chairman of the combined operation, rather than Stanton Bluestone, current Carson ceo.
Mercantile Stores. Stock swings have sprung speculation that the company is up for sale, but Mercantile executives insisted there are no talks going on. Analysts believe it’s only a matter of time before May Co. or Dillard’s moves in.
Woodward & Lothrop. Woodie’s recently sold its Yonkers, N.Y., store to Sears, Roebuck. Now there’s speculation other units will be sold. Its market share has been eroded by invaders from outside the Washington area, including Nordstrom, Macy’s and some discounters such as Sears and Filene’s Basement. In addition, Target Stores is reportedly coming to the D.C. area.

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