Cover at deadline

TEEN APPAREL CATALOG SHUTTERS Just Nikki, a teen apparel catalog launched by retailer Claire’s Stores in February 1998, mailed its last book in mid-November. The catalog, which stopped taking orders in January, “didn’t meet Claire’s expectations and had higher-than-expected fulfillment costs,” says catalog president Brian Doyle. “Back-to-school sales last fall were weak, and the book didn’t seem to have the growth potential we thought it did a year ago.”

J. CREW CEO SPLITS On Jan. 4, CEO Howard Socol left apparel cataloger/retailer J. Crew due to differing perspectives on the company’s future, according to a company statement. Socol had been with Crew for less than a year. He was replaced on an interim basis by board member Dick Boyce, who is also president of CAF, a financial unit of Texas Pacific Group, which bought a controlling interest in Crew in 1997. Socol’s parting follows the fall departure of operations manager Arthur Cinader Jr., the son of Crew founder Arthur Cinader. Cinader Sr.’s daughter, Emily Woods, remains chairwoman. In a statement to employees, Woods noted that the company’s profits were on plan, with earnings before taxes up 37% from the previous year. “Howard’s drive for departmental accountability and savings has aligned our cost structure with our revenue,” she said.

HENRY SCHEIN TO ACQUIRE TWO HEALTHCARE MARKETERS On Dec. 29, $1.52 billion healthcare supplies cataloger Henry Schein said it had agreed to buy $118 million General Injectables and Vaccines, a Bastian, VA-based direct marketer of vaccines and other injectables, for $65 million. Then on Jan. 5, Melville, NY-based Schein announced plans to buy Hamburg, Germany-based Heiland Group GmbH, a $130 million healthcare supplies marketer. Schein plans to merge Heiland with its own German unit, Henry Schein Dentina GmbH.

BLACK BOX TO BUY SERVICES PROVIDER Black Box Corp., a $264.2 million cataloger of computer networking systems, announced in late December that it planned to acquire Key-Four, a $7 million provider of installation and maintenance services for cabling and telephone systems. The deal was expected to close in January. The acquisition is Pittsburgh-based Black Box’s seventh within the past year, and in a statement the company predicted that in 1999 it “will be even more aggressive than [in] ’98.”

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