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Retail Briefs

Williams-Sonoma Feeds Formats

Williams-Sonoma Inc.'s emerging brands are points of focus. New fabrics and finishes will key merchandise expansion as eight new West Elm stores open by yearend. This format can become "one of our largest brands," said Edward Mueller, ceo. Catalog and internet activity will support Williams-Sonoma Home as it opens two new test stores, while PB Teen will gain better a in-stock position in textiles, as well as a new gift-card program.

Stein Mart Presses Home Turnaround

Stein Mart said home was a source of strength during the first quarter, as it adds more fashion textiles, decorative accessories and furniture pieces. Michael Fisher, president and ceo, said, "In linens, we're seeing a good response on the fashion side of that in terms of top-of-bed and some of the fashion assortments in bath as well." The 263-unit chain continues to search for ways to improve its utility bedding business, previously positioned as a promotional department.

Jo-Ann Plans Licensed Fabric Intro

Jo-Ann Stores will introduce a new line of home decorative fabrics, trims and educational materials under an exclusive licensing partnership with a "well-known television personality," said president and ceo Alan Rosskamm on a recent conference call. Meanwhile the 828-store craft chain continues to trim inventory and reduce debt.

Bon-Ton Benefits from Saks Unit

The acquisition of the Northern Department Store Group from Saks Inc. has been a good news/bad news story for The Bon-Ton Stores. The company reported a first-quarter net loss of $10.8 million, compared to a net loss of $4.4 million for the same period a year ago — but with the new division reporting comp sales up 1.7% in contrast to Bon-Ton comps down 2.9%. Home was among the weakest categories overall, said president and ceo Byron Bergren. The company sees a growing private-label business as part of the cure.

Costco Expands Costco Home Test

Costco Wholesale plans to open its third Costco Home concept store sometime in the next 12 months. Richard Galanti, evp and cfo, called the home furnishings specialty format a "good concept." The first unit opened two years ago in Kirkland, Wash., and the second unit opened 18 months ago in Tempe, Ariz. "We take things slow, as you know," Galanti said, adding that the test stores show the concept can be profitable.

Big Lots Grows Textiles Sales

We have a huge upside in linens and domestics," said Big Lots chairman and ceo Steve Fishman, pointing to mid-single-digit comp store gains in home overall, and high-single-digit comps for domestics. "You will see more bedding and bath promotion and inventory investment" at the 1,400-store closeout chain, he said, reviewing first-quarter results.

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