SIDELINES

BURTON SWINGS THE AX: Burton Snowboards handed out pink slips Wednesday to 10 percent of its global workforce, with its Burlington, Vt.-based company taking the biggest hit. Several seasonal positions, such as those needed in customer service during the holiday rush, were eliminated as they are every spring, a company spokeswoman said.
Layoffs were needed due to the uneven economy, sluggish fall sales after Sept. 11 and an unseasonably warm winter, she said. During the past month, Burton put into place its first companywide “shared services” structure, which involved the consolidation of its operational, financial, and sales management functions for all of Burton’s brands — Burton Snowboards, R.E.D. impact protection, Anon. Optics, Gravis Footwear, and a soon-to-be named apparel company that launches this summer.
In an internal memo to staffers, founder Jake Burton said, “Although statistically this season was very good, retailers globally are in a very cautious mood in their prebooking of merchandise for fall deliveries. Since Burton’s annual production order is based on their prebookings, the company has had to scale back expectations for the year and will not be building as much inventory for speculative reorders.”
He also noted that despite “a ridiculously poor global snow year,” the sport of snowboarding continues to grow, and Burton Snowboards’ North American preseason business is tracking even with last year. Consumer interest and participation are at their highest levels ever and the sport has a tremendous amount of energy coming off the Olympics, gaining vast mainstream attention and establishing new role models in sport.

IN THE SWIM: Two former Italian models are throwing a real bash tonight at Murano, a new high-end condominium complex at the tip of South Beach, for the U.S. launch of Piedras, their new gem-encrusted swimwear label that means “stones” in Spanish. The design duo of Maria Buccellati and Paula Berger is using semiprecious gemstones, a natural finishing touch, considering each is married to one of the owners of Buccellati, the Italian jewelry house.
Overseas, the suits have been featured on recent covers of Elle Italy and Italian Vogue. Tennis starlet Anna Kournikova and Elle McPherson include Piedras in their wardrobes. For tonight’s party and fashion show, Buccellati and Berger are seeing to it that the hotel’s swimming pool is covered for a dance floor, so guests can groove to music by Stefano Cecchi, the DJ from Buddha Bar in Paris. The night also celebrates the world premiere of his cd, “Saturday Sessions — House of the Italian Fashion Stores.”

DANSKIN GETS ONLINE: Danskin has teamed up with Seventh Online to develop a business-to-business Web site, geared especially for small and West Coast retailers. With a Danskin-issued password, stores can log on at any hour to place orders.
Prior to the launch, the company received an average of 600 phone calls and 350 orders each day. Each order cost the company about $12 to process by phone compared to about $6 via the Internet, said Carol Hochman, president and chief executive officer.
About 700 dance stores were among the first to sign up for the service.

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