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Retail briefs

Elder-Beerman in talks

After receiving several "unsolicited expressions of interest relating to the possible acquisition of the company," department store retailer Elder-Beerman Friday said it was entertaining buyout overtures. The company said that it has entered into a letter agreement with an interested party to discuss, on an exclusive basis for a limited amount of time, the possible sale of the company. The company added that there are no assurances that these discussions will result in any transaction. Elder Beerman operates 68 stores.

Penney sees more off-the-mall

At its annual meeting in Plano, TX, JCPenney said it will open three stores in off-the-mall locations — Dallas, Indianapolis, Minneapolis — in November. Emphasizing that off-the-mall units are not new for Penney, Allen Questrom, chairman and ceo, said, speaking to reporters after the meeting, "We are looking at different formats for fashion and soft home. We are not looking to add food. Convenience for customers will be an important element.

"In design, "We're looking at competitors, not copying them. We're looking for new ways to offer our merchandise," he said. The new stores, at 78,000-square-feet of net selling space, are larger than other Penney off-the-mall units.

Wal-Mart admits markdown risk

Wal-Mart will be intent on balancing its inventories in the current quarter after recording disappointing Q1 sales, the company said in its quarterly conference call last week. That could result in the giant retailer scaling back some ordering.

Companywide, inventories were up 13.4 percent on a 9.7 percent total sales increase during the first quarter.

"It's clear our sales increases were less than planned, which led us to undesirable inventory levels," said president and ceo Lee Scott. "We have some work to do in the coming quarter to bring our inventories down to the appropriate levels," Scott acknowledged the higher inventories have created some markdown exposure for Wal-Mart. However, he said that's already been factored into the company's earnings forecasts.

Nick Just departs Kmart

Kmart has confirmed that Nick Just, svp and gmm for apparel, jewelry and drug store, left the company last week. Before moving to menswear as divisional vp in 2000, Just held positions with increasing responsibility in the home fashions division, including merchandise manager and divisional vp, where he played a key role in launching the Martha Stewart Everyday line. He has been with Kmart since 1982. Additionally, Rob Atteberry added to his responsibilities in March, being promoted to dvp, home. Previously overseeing soft home, he now is also in charge of hard home and a portion of Do-It-Yourself.

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