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TOYS R US TO CUT 1,900 JOBS

Toys R Us Inc. plans to eliminate 1,900 jobs, or about three per cent of its permanent work force, close 64 U.S. stores and consolidate support services as part of a plan to cut costs and boost profits.

The moves announced recently come at a time when the Paramus-based company's earnings have slumped due to the economic slowdown and extensive remodeling costs. Toys R Us, the second biggest U.S. toy retailer after Wal-Mart, said it will take a $213 million pretax restructuring charge in its fiscal fourth quarter, which ended February 2, 2002.

The company said the cuts would increase cash flow in 2002 and beyond and boost pretax earnings by about $25 million in 2002, and about $45 million annually beginning 2003. Of the $45 million payroll savings associated with consolidating support services would account for $30 million.

GAP SPLITS US, INTERNATIONAL DIVISIONS

In its continuing struggle to get back on track, Gap Inc has decided to once again separate its U.S. and international divisions. Two years ago, the San Francisco-based company merged the two operations into one, with Ken Pilot at its head.

Pilot has now been shifted back to Gap International and Gap Inc CEO Millard Drexler will oversee the U.S. division until a new president can be found. There has been speculation that whoever is chosen for the position could also be a potential successor for Drexler, who has been CEO since 1995.

"Gap faces challenges and opportunities in our U.S. and international markets that demand different management skills and levels of attention," explained Drexler. "Separate divisions and leadership teams will help us manage Gap brand more effectively as we work to improve results, better serve our customers and return Gap to long-term quality growth."

While Gap International will have its own merchandising team, it will look to the U.S. division for product design and marketing. Of Gap's 4,179 stores, 665 are in the U.K., France, Germany, Japan and Canada.

EBAY BUSIEST SHOPPING PORTAL

As in 2000, eBay was the busiest shopping portal this past holiday season, with Amazon.com running a close second, according to Jupiter Media Metrix. Jupiter estimated that 51.7 million unique visitors clicked to e-commerce sites during the week ending December 2, 2001, representing growth of 45 per cent over the equivalent period from the previous year.

For the first time, the number of women who used the Internet for holiday shopping outpaced the number of men, according to a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project. Of the 29 million users who made purchases online during the holiday season, approximately 58 per cent were women, up from 50 per cent during the 2000 season, and they racked up an average purchase total of $392.

Comparison shopping at BizRate.com, DealTime.com and MySimon.com all saw sizable increases in traffic. Also, a clear distinction between the buying patterns of men and women was evidenced, with men favouring various computer sites, while women favoured apparel sites, including OldNavy.com, Spiegel.com and JCPenney.com. Affluent shoppers- defined as those with annual household incomes over $100,000- also favoured apparel sites. Gap.com topped a long list of sites in terms of the percentage of its visitors who were affluent shoppers, with 36 per cent of them falling into that category. LLBean.com saw 33 per cent of its visitors come from the affluent category.

ARMANI TO OPEN FIRST COLLEZIONI IN PARIS

Couturier Giorgio Armani will open his first Collezioni boutique in Paris in the coming month, the latest step in the designer's increasing presence in France. The 5,500 sq. ft. store, the ninth Collezioni boutique worldwide, will retail men's and women's fashion, along with accessories, eyewear and fragrances.

Taking into account all the Giorgio Armani, Emporio Armani, A/X Armani Exchange, Armani Jeans, Armani Junior and Armani Casa boutiques, the designer boasts a chain of 260 stores in his international network.

GLOBALSHOP 2002 EXPECTS 1,200 EXHIBITORS

GlobalShop 2002 will be held once again at McCormick Place in Chicago on April 19-20, 2002. With five exhibitions in one, over 1,200 exhibitors will be present at the Store Fixturing Show, The Visual Merchandising Show, Retail Operations & Construction Expo, i3: In-store Interactive Ideas Show and POP Marketplace. Making its debut this year will be the New-Products Showcase which could be expected to feature the newest products in the market. Most of the products that will be shown are being unveiled for the first time to the public.

Principals of top design firms would be at hand at the Design Firm Forum. The conference programme this year is packed with practical solutions and expert advice on retailing in the post September 11 marketplace. The organisers are promising all the tricks of the trade at GlobalShop, be it building store identity, a way to stand out in the marketplace, or to secure store image success.

WEB-BASED RETAIL TRAINING SOLUTION

Distance learning service for the retail industry may no longer remain a mere pipe-dream. NRF University in the US has designed the Sun-hosted, Sun LearnTone(TM) Learning Management System (LMS) programme and integrated with retail training coursework to provide retailers with an affordable, Web-based solution that would facilitate the management of both online and classroom learning besides offering a high-quality tent baseline retail training.

An easy and consistent training platform, such as this, could prove a boon to the retail businesses in reducing training costs and improving employee productivity by enabling quick and effective education and dissemination of information to staff.

With well-researched distance learning services becoming available, employees would find it convenient to up-date product information in a more timely manner. The NRF and Sun package training would be available on the Internet. NRF University can be contacted at mancek@nrf.com


RETAIL PIONEER STANLEY MARCUS PASSES AWAY

Stanley Marcus, 96, one of the world's best-known retailers has passed away leaving behind a legacy of grit and hard work. The former president and chairman of the leading US department store, Neiman Marcus, increased annual sales to $58.5mn from $20.6mn, annual profits to $2.1mn from $880,000 and expanded its operations from just one outlet to four. He was also a corporate executive vice president and a director of Carter Hawley Hale. There are now more than 30 Neiman Marcus stores, which is part of the Neiman Marcus Group, which also includes Bergdorf Goodman and NM Direct.

KASPER FILES FOR CHAPTER 11 PROTECTION

The world's largest ladies' suit manufacturer Kasper ASL Ltd recently filed for Chapter 11 protection from its creditors in Manhattan federal bankruptcy court.

The fashion giant, whose brands include Kasper, Anne Klein and Albert Nippon, asked US Bankruptcy Judge Allan L Gropper to approve $126 million in debtor-in-possession financing, including $35 million in new borrowings, to pay its vendors and employees. Kasper recorded sales of $301 million for the first nine months of 2001 but lost $40 million over the same period. The company has been struggling under a mountain of debt since it was spun off from Leslie Fay Cos in 1997 with $110 million in debt. The business then extended itself two years later when it purchased Anne Klein.

Kasper currently sells clothing through 3,200 retail stores in the US and also operates 65 Kasper outlets and 26 Anne Klein stores. It also licenses its trademarks to manufacturers of women's watches, jewellery, handbags, shoes, glasses and men's suits.


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