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Fred’s reports decline in sales

BY Michael Johnsen

MEMPHIS, Tenn. Fred’s on Thursday reported a 1% decline in total sales for the five weeks ended April 4, generating $175.4 million in sales.

The decline reflects the closing of 74 underperforming stores and 22 underperforming pharmacies last year, the discounter reported. Excluding stores closed during 2008, total sales from ongoing stores increased 4% in March versus the same month last year. Comparable-store sales for the month rose 1.9%, versus an increase of 1.2% in the same period last year.

“Our progress in building both traffic and average ticket continued during March, as indicated by comparable-store sales growth at the high end of our plan,” stated Bruce Efird, Fred’s CEO. “This performance, which also reflected higher pharmacy department prescription counts is gratifying, considering the tough retail environment we face. Those same challenges, however, continue to drive growing consumer interest in discount retailers, and Fred’s remains well positioned to deliver great value to its customers.”

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Staedtler announces merger of U.S., Canada operations

BY Allison Cerra

CHATSWORTH, Calif. A new, consolidated organization of Staedtler will emerge by the end of this year, the company’s division presidents and CEOs announced.

By merging the United States and Canada operations, Staedtler Inc. will have a combined division called Staedtler North America.

The company manufactures writing instruments, including highlighters, mechanical drawing instruments and more.

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Costco halts home furnishing store experiment

BY Alaric DeArment

ISSAQUAH, Wash. Costco Wholesale Corp. will close its two Costco Home stores, the retailer announced Thursday.

The company will close the stores, in Kirkland, Wash., and Tempe, Ariz., on July 3.

“Costco Home has been a valuable experiment for us,” CEO Jim Sinegal stated. “We provided a competitive home furnishings alternative to our members in two locations and learned a great deal about home furnishings in the process. The current economic slowdown and resulting weakness in the home furnishings business inparticular have led us to conclude that the single-format Costco Home concept does not fit into our long-term expansion plans.”

Employees at the two stores will be offered opportunities to work at Costco warehouses, the company said.

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