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General Mills Sells Talbots and Eddie Bauer Clothing Chains

May 19, 1988|NANCY YOSHIHARA | Times Staff Writer

Talbots, the preppy clothier and trend setter for the suburban set, said sayonara on Wednesday to its American owner, who sold the women's clothing chain to Japan's fourth-largest supermarket operator for $325 million cash.

Talbots was sold by General Mills, the food conglomerate, which also announced that it has sold its Eddie Bauer chain that specializes in outdoor wear and gear. It was sold to the Spiegel mail-order house for $260 million.

General Mills put its two apparel chains up for sale in January after a disappointing Christmas season. The deals represent the latest in a series of ownership changes for retail specialty chains such as Brooks Bros. and I. Magnin.

The sale of Talbots and Eddie Bauer, for a total of $585 million, puts General Mills out of the retail business, which has been plagued all year by weak sales. The Minneapolis company said it will focus on its traditional packaged foods and restaurants.

126 Talbots Stores

In fiscal 1987, retail revenues represented 9% of General Mills' total revenues of $5.2 billion and 6% of its $222 million in earnings.

Jusco Co. Ltd, Talbots' new owner, operates supermarkets out of its Tokyo headquarters and recently has been diversifying into specialty stores, including Laura Ashley Japan, and restaurants. Since 1982, it has operated a joint venture with General Mills to develop the American firm's Red Lobster specialty seafood restaurants in Japan.

Talbots, founded by Nancy and Rudy Talbots, was sold to General Mills in 1973. At the time, the business sold traditional-style women's clothing through mail order and at one outlet. Sales then totaled less than $10 million.

Talbots' annual sales in 1988 are expected to exceed $340 million. It operates 126 stores in 26 states--13 in California, and 40% of its sales are from mail order.

Two years ago, Talbots brought in a new president to update the chain's frumpy image as fashion turned away from classic, traditional styles to trendier clothes. The chain, which has long attracted the country club set, has been broadening its appeal to attract working women.

Spiegel Buying 58 Stores

Takuya Okada, Jusco chairman and chief executive, said the Talbots' acquisition is his firm's first move into the United States and part of the company strategy to move into international marketing.

Jusco had total sales of $7.6 billion and assets of $4.3 billion for the year ended Feb. 20, 1988.

He said Talbots will continue to operate with its existing management, employees, and distribution headquarters in Hingham Mass.

Spiegel is acquiring 58 Eddie Bauer stores in 14 states and two Canadian provinces. The specialty chain, which sells men's and women's leisure sportswear, gifts and outdoor equipment through stores and mail order, has annual sales of about $255 million.

General Mills purchased the Redmond, Wash., company in 1970 when Eddie Bauer's sales totaled $20 million from mail order and its one outlet. Annual sales now total about $255 million.

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