FPO at deadline

GENESIS SELLS CAROL WRIGHT; REST TO FOLLOW As part of its wind-down toward selling off the remains of what was once a 30-title catalog company, Genesis Direct/Proteam.com received bankruptcy court approval in early December to sell Carol Wright Gifts to healthcare catalog Dr. Leonard’s, according to Genesis president/CEO Harry Usher. The sale was expected to close by late December. At press time, Genesis, which has operated under Chapter 11 since August, was also scheduled to seek court approval on Dec. 17 to sell its remaining properties: The Edge Co., Voyager’s Collection, Proteam.com, and its other sports-related catalogs. “I expect Edge, Voyager’s, and the sports books to be operating [out of Genesis’s Secaucus, NJ, headquarters] under new management by January,” Usher said on Dec. 15. He added that, pending the Newark, NJ-based bankruptcy court approval, one company would likely buy all of them.

MARKS & SPENCER REPORTEDLY ON THE BLOCK London-based cataloger/retailer Marks & Spencer, which owns upscale clothing cataloger/ retailer Brooks Brothers, may be the subject of a hostile takeover. In mid-December, at least three British-based parties – supermarket chain Tesco, general merchandise retailer Kingfisher, and private investor Philip Green – were reportedly interested in acquiring the struggling $9.7 billion conglomerate. Analysts say that Marks & Spencer’s fall sales, which are down 9%-18%, have prompted the takeover speculation. Moreover, some believe that Brooks Brothers may not be included in the M&S sale, due to the unit’s lackluster financial performance. At press time, M&S would not comment.

RACY ABERCROMBIE & FITCH MAGALOG DRAWS MORE FIRE A month after the most recent and most sexually explicit Abercrombie & Fitch catalog drew the ire of Michigan attorney general Jennifer Granholm, forcing the company to card kids under 18 who want to buy it at A&F stores, it caused Illinois lieutenant governor Corinne Wood to call for a boycott of the company’s clothes. Wood told an Illinois news service that the catalog “clearly crosses the line. There’s nudity and even an interview with a porn star.”

J.C. WHITNEY FILES TRADEMARK SUIT On Dec. 3, automotive parts and accessories cataloger J.C. Whitney filed a six-count trademark infringement lawsuit in Illinois against Santa Monica, CA-based online automotive parts retailer Carparts.com. Whitney is seeking an injunction to prevent Carparts.com from using the Whitney trademark as a keyword or metatag on search engines, portals, virtual servers, and other sites for the purpose of redirecting traffic from J.C. Whitney to its own site. The suit alleges that Carparts.com bought the keyword “jcwhitney” on search engines and uses URLs including “jcwhitney.car-carparts.com” and “jcwhitneya.car-carparts.com” to drive traffic to its site when consumers search the term “jcwhitney” or other name variations. In July, J.C. Whitney issued a cease and desist order to Carparts.com, but it was ignored.

WALMART SPEAKS UP ON INTERNET TAXATION With the sides fairly evenly divided, the 19-member Advisory Commission on Electronic Commerce held a two-day session in mid-December in San Francisco to examine 37 proposals on Internet taxation, starting with one that would prohibit any taxes. While commission chairman Gov. Jim Gilmore (R-VA) sides with those favoring a permanent ban on Internet taxation (including sales taxes), the Clinton administration has said it opposes an outright ban on Internet sales taxes – although it has no plans to impose a new tax system, according to a recent report. But at least one faction within the committee, which includes two of the nation’s largest retailers, Wal-Mart and Radio Shack, could cause problems for e-merchants pushing for a tax ban. Wal-Mart spokesman David Bullington said in a recent published report that government has a “duty” to collect sales tax from Internet shoppers. Failing to do so is “totally incorrect tax policy,” he said.

BURPEE GETS TAX BREAK On Dec. 10, the Downers Grove Village Council agreed to share a portion of sales-tax revenue with Philadelphia-based seed cataloger/retailer W. Atlee Burpee & Co. as an incentive to get Burpee to open a store in a long-vacant site in the Chicago suburb. The agreement offers a rebate of 70% of the village’s share of the sales taxes generated by the store for five years, and 50% of its share of sales taxes for the next five years, Village Manager Mike McCurdy told the Chicago Tribune. The paper also reported the deal could be renewed for another 10 years if Burpee wants it.

ANIMAL GROUP ATTACKS NEIMAN MARCUS On Dec. 13, The Fund for Animals wrote Neiman Marcus store division president Gerald Sampson to complain about the company’s catalog offering of a Crocodile Trip and Chair, a package that for $75,000 allows customers to take a week-long trip to Australia, hunt down a 20-foot-long, 2,000-pound, salt water crocodile, and have the crocodile skin crafted into a custom chair by Neiman Marcus. In its complaint, Michael Markarian, executive vice president of The Fund for Animals, charges that Neiman Marcus “has already raised the ire of animal protection groups because the company sells fur coats in its department stores,” added,. “Offering wealthy trophy hunters the chance to massacre protected animals goes beyond the pale.” Neiman Marcus spokeswoman Ginger Reader said the company had no comment on the letter.

PEOPLE ON THE MOVE Hardware and gifts cataloger/retailer Restoration Hardware recently hired Cory Hunter, an independent retail management consultant, as executive vice president of merchandising….Men’s apparel cataloger/retailer Jos. A. Bank Clothiers recently tapped former Officemax senior vice president of human resources Robert Hensley executive vice president, responsible for corporate sales, stores, distribution and human resources….Children’s products cataloger/retailer The Right Start has appointed three senior officers to its online subsidiary Rightstart.com. Raymond Springer has been named executive vice president/CFO; Kendrick Royer has been hired as senior vice president/general counsel; and Lisa Mittleman has been appointed vice president of marketing.

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