In the news

Youngstown, Ohio — Edward DeBartolo Jr. is returning to real estate after years of focusing on the entertainment portion of his family's business. Locally based DeBartolo Property Group LLC took control of the family's real estate holdings from Cleveland-based The Edward J. DeBartolo Corp., which has been controlled by his sister ever since DeBartolo was implicated in a gambling scandal that resulted in his sale of the San Francisco 49ers.

The deal included 21 million shares of Indianapolis-based Simon Property Group stock, which is nearly 10% of the company and worth roughly $550 million. Simon, which acquired the DeBartolo family's mall company in 1996, said the move would not affect its strategy.

St. Paul, Minn. — Supermarkets with Internet ordering capabilities result in higher growth rates than those without, according to The Retail Food Industry Center (TRFIC) at the University of Minnesota's department of applied economics. Food retailers with Internet ordering had a median sales growth of 4.4% for 2000. Those without grew only 1.7% in median sales, according to TRFIC's newly released Supermarket Panel, a random study of 344 of the United States' some 32,000 supermarkets.

Chicago — Construction contractors are enjoying good times with almost 80% reporting moderate to high profits during last year. These figures come from a report conducted by Deloitte & Touche LLP and Associated General Contractors of America, surveying more than 1,000 general and specialty contractors.

For the first time since the periodic survey commenced in 1992, contractors are reporting that customer satisfaction is the primary gaue of business success, replacing net income and gross profits.

According to the report, issues that contractors predict will affect the industry in the coming year include shrinking margins caused by increasing labor and materials costs, labor shortages and keeping up with technology.

Washington, D.C.National Retail Federation(NRF) president and CEO Tracy Mullin, along with members of the newly formed Tax Relief Coalition, recently met with President George W. Bush to express support for the Administration's $1.6 trillion tax relief proposal. On behalf of the $3.1 trillion retail industry, Mullin praised the tax proposal, saying it would restore consumer confidence, stimulate the nation's economy and ensure long-term economic growth.

Retailer roundup

Anaheim, Calif. — After seeing a 24% drop in earnings for 2000, Disney is closing 100 of its retail stores, reducing its worldwide chain to 600 locations.

The consumer products division of Walt Disney Corp. earned $455 million last year, prompting the company to negotiate licensing agreements with 15 retailers in an attempt to boost profits. The company recently unveiled a new store prototype in Costa Mesa, Calif. that has increased that store's sales by 25%. A chain-wide roll out of this prototype is expected soon.

Columbus, OhioThe Limited Inc. plans to sell Lane Bryant, its plus-size women's apparel division, and reorganize Structure, its men's apparel division. The move was motivated by slow sales at both divisions, with Lane Bryant posting a 17.6% drop in fourth quarter earnings. Structure will be merged with the company's Express division and renamed Express Men's. The Limited has retained New York-based investment bank Lazard Frères & Co. to broker the Lane Bryant sale.

Denver — Locally based Gart Sports Co. has announced plans to purchase competitor Oshman's Sporting Goods of Houston. Los Angeles-based Leonard Green & Partners brokered the $84 million deal and will retain 44% ownership in the new company. The merger, which integrates Gart's 120 locations and Oshman's 58, will create the industry's second largest sporting goods retailer after Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.-based The Sports Authority Inc.