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Retail Briefs

'Qualified Parties' Interested in Fred's

Saying it "has received multiple inquiries from qualified parties," neighborhood discounter Fred's has retained Merrill Lynch to review strategic alternatives, the 708-store chain said during its third quarter earnings call. Fred's reported net income of $4.6 million, down 23% from a year ago, on sales of $419.9 million, up 3%.

In connection with its strategic and financial review, Fred's also said it was temporarily suspending its stock repurchase program. On the day of the announcement, Nov. 29, Fred's shares zoomed up more than 10% on news of the review.

Elder-Beerman Stores in Transition

Department store operator The Bon-Ton Stores will convert a former Elder-Beerman store and will shut down another. The Muskegon, Mich., unit will become a 52,000-square-foot furniture gallery under the Younkers nameplate, set to re-open in summer 2008.

The company said it will continue to operate its Younkers full-line department store at The Lakes Mall location nearby; president and ceo Bud Bergren said that store will feature "an expanded merchandise selection."

Meanwhile in Morgantown, W.V., the 71,000-square-foot Elder-Beerman Morgantown East store will close. The leasehold interest, acquired by Bon-Ton in 2003 as part of the Elder-Beerman acquisition, will expire Jan. 31 and will not be renewed, the company said.

Ross Stores Taps Froman for Board

Off-price retailer Ross Stores has elected retail expert John Froman to its board of directors. Froman spent two decades in management roles at consumer electronics retailer Circuit City, ultimately as evp and coo. From 2005-2007 he was president and ceo of NAMCO Pool & Patio.

Cost Plus Delays 3Q Results

Citing a death "in the immediate family" of president and ceo Barry Feld, Cost Plus World Market said it would delay its release of third quarter results from the originally scheduled date of Nov. 29 until Dec. 3. The 299-store home furnishings specialty retailer said the delay would enable Feld to participate in the conference call, which was reset for 1:30 p.m. Pacific Time on Monday, Dec. 3.

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