Retailer News

TIFFANY NAMES NEW PRESIDENT

Michael J. Kowalski, 43, was named president of Tiffany & Co. in January. This is the first time the company named someone to the separate post of president. Formerly, the presidency was combined with the chairman and chief executive posts, which are held by William R. Chaney.

Kowalski will oversee merchandising, marketing and special assignments in developing the company, says Chaney. A graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Harvard University, Kowalski joined Tiffany in 1983 and has held positions in finance and inventory management.

Also at Tiffany, Executive Vice President James Quinn was named to oversee the customer service and operations center. He also will continue to handle the company’s retail and wholesale operations in North America.

Senior Vice President Tom O’Neill, who has been responsible for Tiffany’s operations in the Far East and the Middle East, will now add the company’s European businesses to his portfolio.

Tiffany also announced it will open its first stand-alone store in Tokyo, Japan, in May. Tiffany already has 38 boutiques in department stores in Japan that account for a quarter of its total sales. The new store will comprise 7,000 square feet and be opened in the Gins district in cooperation with Mitsukoshi Ltd.

Tiffany operates 95 stores and boutiques worldwide.

BEST PRODUCTS SEEKS A NEW BOSS

Directors of Best Products Inc., a leading catalog showroom retailer, launched a search in February for a new president, chief executive officer and chairman. The new executive will replace Stewart M. Kasen, who will serve in the positions until a replacement is chosen.

The board’s decision to replace Kasen followed what one financial analyst called a “disastrous” December, when same-store sales fell 12% and total sales were off 7%. Best expects to report a loss for the fiscal year ended Jan. 31.

Best, which emerged from bank-ruptcy protection four years ago, also announced it has secured a new credit agreement of $300 million from the CIT Group/Business Credit Inc. It replaces a $150 million agreement through a syndicate of banks; Best officials considered the old agreement inadequate for its inventory needs this year. The new agreement will allow Best to finance its seasonal inventories for the year and gives it the “additional flexibility

to compete in the current retail environment,” says a company spokesman.

At least one major investment firm – Wheat First Butcher Singer – suggests that Best’s brightest hope lay in its sale to another company. But at press time, there were no reports of potential purchasers.

The company operates 175 Best stores and 11 Best Jewelry stores in 22 states plus a nationwide mail-order service.

CONSTRUCTION BEGINS ON FORTUNOFF MALL

Construction began Feb. 1 on The Source, a $127 million shopping mall in Westbury, N.Y. Fortunoff Fine Jewelry and Silverware and Simon Property Group are developing the 930,000-sq.-ft., two-level mall around an existing Fortunoff store.

Some Fortunoff customers were invited to operate construction equipment during groundbreaking ceremonies at the site, which was the starting point of Charles Lindbergh’s historic 1927 solo flight to Paris. World War I biplanes flew overhead as they ran the equipment.

President Alan Fortunoff noted the mall is part of a strategic plan to “meet the needs of our customers far into the future” and create a retail environment that complements the Fortunoff business. He also thanked local and county government and civic leaders for their cooperation.

Melvin Simon, co-chairman of the development group, cited the “legendary strength of FortunoffŠ Combine their consumer loyalty with the demographics of the Long Island marketplace and the fresh stores we are bringing to The Source, and the opportunities are limitless.”

Financing is underwritten by KeyCorp.

The Source will be located near two other major malls, but it’s expected to benefit from the 1.4 million people and 464,000 households located within a 10-mile radius. The mall is expected to generate some $173 million in annual revenue after it opens in summer 1997.

ZALE POSTS 20% GAIN IN SIX MONTH EARNINGS

Zale Corp., the largest jewelry chain in the U.S., reported net earnings up 20% for the half year and almost 11% for the second quarter ended Jan. 31.

Net sales for the quarter were $452 million, compared to $427.2 million for the same period a year ago. Net earnings were $46.2 million or $1.27 per share, up from $41.8 million or $1.19 a share in 1995.

Net sales for the half were $666.2 million, up from $632.7 million in the same period a year earlier. Net earnings were $46.3 million or $1.28 a share, compared with $38.6 million or $1.10 a share.

The current year-to-date results included an unusual benefit related to settlement of certain reorganization matters, plus an extraordinary expense related to early redemption of debt. Both occurred in the first three months of this fiscal year. Together, they had a positive impact of $1.8 million or 5¢ a share on earnings.

Operating earnings for the second quarter were $79.8 million, up 12.8% from the previous year. Operating earnings for the half (excluding the just-mentioned unusual items) were $84 million, up 3.8% from a year earlier.

“The results for the quarter and year to date reflect our continued success in improving store productivity while effectively controlling our expense structure,” said Robert J. DiNicola, Zale’s chairman and president. “We’re pleased that our ongoing strategies also resulted in a very successful Valentine’s Day, plus a strong start to our third quarter.”

Zale operates almost 1,200 retail stores and leased departments in the U.S., Guam, and Puerto Rico, including Zales Jewelers, Gordon’s Jewelers, Bailey Banks & Biddle and Corrigan’s.

GRIFFIN’S JEWELERS AD IN NATIONAL FINALS

A 30-second TV ad created for Griffin’s Jewelers, a six-store chain based in Talladega, Ala., was a national finalist in the 1995 Vision Awards competition.

The ad, titled “Hands of a Craftsman” and produced by Attaway Advertising, portrayed Griffin’s creation of custom jewelry.

The national Vision Awards competition honors the best of local and regional TV ads produced by more than 30,000 advertising agencies, production studios and TV stations in the U.S. Entries in 40 categories are judged on creativity, production, copywriting and effectiveness.

JCPENNEY’S COMPUTERIZED REGISTRIES GO NATIONAL

JCPenney Co. is enjoying success with its new national computerized bridal and baby gift registries.

The registry program centers on computerized kiosks installed last fall in 700 of the company’s 1,200 stores. The kiosks contain lists of gifts selected by registered bridal couples and new parents. Customers may purchase a gift on a list by calling a toll-free telephone number or asking a salesperson for help.

The registries also are accessible on the Internet at http://www.JCPenney.com. (The site offers general shopping and other information about the company as well.)

In the last three months of 1995, more than 100,000 people registered through the kiosk registries, says Ellen Horton, a spokeswoman for JCPenney.

A new catalog for the bridal registry supplements the store’s merchandise assortment with more than 50 fine china patterns by such companies as Lenox, Mikasa, Royal Doulton and Fitz & Floyd. Stemware, flatware, cookware and small appliances also are available. The registry and catalog offer little jewelry: only four 14k gemstone, pearl or diamond pieces and three watch styles from Seiko.

OPENINGS

William and Carlie Fine Jewelry opened recently in Gibsonville, S.C. Owner Bobby Sharpe has worked in the retail jewelry industry for 26 years.

King’s Jewelry of New Castle, Pa., opened its 32nd store in February. The new store is in the The Galleria in Johnstown, Pa. The company has stores throughout Pennsylvania, Ohio and West Virginia.