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KMART GMM RETIRING: Ron Buch, a 39-year veteran of Kmart Corp., said Tuesday he will retire as vice president and general merchandise manager, apparel and accessories, in May. No successor has been named, Kmart said, but in the interim, apparel and accessories will report to Charles Chinni, executive vice president, merchandising. Chinni, former president of home goods merchandising at Macy’s East, joined Kmart last month.
“This is purely voluntary on my part,” Buch, 59, said in an interview. “I think there are a lot of good things happening at Kmart and I think you will start seeing some spark in this company again.”
Buch joined Kmart on a full-time basis in 1956 and was named retailer of the year by the Home Fashions Product Association in 1993.
Additionally, Kmart named Ray Minton divisional vice president for planning and analysis. He will direct merchandising of apparel and accessories.

HILLS EARNINGS UP: Hills Stores Co. said fourth-quarter earnings rose 3.9 percent to $33.5 million, or $2.37 a share, on the strength of hard lines.
In the year-ago quarter, Hills reported earnings of $32.2 million, or $2.29 a share. Total sales rose 7.4 percent to $673.6 million in the quarter ended Jan. 28 from $627 million, with same-store sales up 4.7 percent.
John G. Reen, executive vice president and chief financial officer of the 156-unit regional discounter, said “apparel in general was a little weak” in the quarter. He said women’s and accessories sales rose 2 percent on a same-store basis, while men’s and children’s were not as strong. On a same-store basis for the year, women’s and accessories sales climbed 5 percent.
For the year, sales climbed 6 percent to $1.9 billion, from $1.8 billion, with same-store sales up 5.1 percent.

50-OFF CUTS BACK: San Antonio-based 50-Off Stores Inc. said Tuesday it will close 12 more stores this year, lay off about 25 percent of its employees and reduce wages and benefits by about 19 percent.
Compensation has “been substantially reduced to achieve permanent efficiencies without compromising performance,” 50-Off said in a statement.
The company said it expects to reduce costs at headquarters by more than $1 million following the cutbacks. The closing of 12 stores will result in an estimated pre-tax charge of $4.9 million.
The off-price retailer has already shut 16 units over the last two years but said the latest closings “are expected to complete the company’s store-consolidation program.” The chain will be left with 102 units at the end of the year.

WAL-MART FIRM ON ARGENTINA: As planned, Wal-Mart Stores said it will not be deterred from expanding into Argentina next year by the country’s difficult economic situation.
Bob Martin, president of Wal-Mart’s international operations, said Tuesday at a news conference in Buenos Aires that Wal-Mart expects to have six stores in Argentina by mid-1996 with an initial investment of about $118 million.