DIVESTITURES: Venator title for sale

When Venator Group, the $6.6 billion New York-based sporting goods retailer, announced its intention to exit eight noncore businesses, at least one of the eight units was glad to hear it. Cataloger/retailer The San Francisco Music Box & Gift Co., based in Walnut Creek, CA, looks forward to new ownership, according to vice president/marketing communications Janet Thompson. She expects that a new parent company will be more willing to invest in San Francisco Music Box’s growth than was Venator, the former F. W. Woolworth Co.

“The capital dried up in 1995, when Venator opted to concentrate on athletic shoe retail chain Foot Locker,” Thompson says. But the $100 million-plus San Francisco Music Box has thrived anyway. “We are profitable and are growing with very little investment,” she says, adding that the unit has doubled its sales since 1991.

Although no buyer has been found yet, Thompson remains confident that Venator will match San Francisco Music Box with an appropriate parent, possibly an investment group: “We’re a good property – 70% of our product is developed inhouse, and our average margins fall between 68% and 72%.” She also points out that the gift marketer’s Website and six-month-old wholesale business are profitable, the latter ahead of schedule.

Venator has already sold one of the eight units, Canadian women’s apparel chain Weekend Edition. Others on the block include outdoor apparel retailer Colorado U.S. and several Burger King franchises.

The company plans to shut any operations it can’t sell, though it has released no deadline. Calls to Venator were not returned by press time.

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