J.C. Penney Profits Fall 36 Percent:
According to the cookie-cutter emporium for the mediocre, J.C. Penny sales were hurt by cutbacks in consumer spending (they forecast further sales declines).

According to reports, “Sales and profits have been battered as its middle-class shoppers tighten discretionary spending in favor of necessities, squeezed by rising fuel and food prices, declining home values and a credit crunch.

Last week, Penney said July sales at stores open a least a year fell a deeper-than-expected 6.5 percent.

“In this difficult consumer environment, we have continued to focus on tightly controlling all aspects of our business,” said the CEO Myron E. Ullman III.

The company tried to protect margins with tighter inventory controls, and said comparable store inventory levels at the end of the second quarter were lower than a year ago.

Sales of women’s apparel and shoes were stronger than other items, while sales of home goods and jewelry were the weakest.

I guess this was bound to happen. With an apple costing $1.25 and gasoline burning up paychecks all over the US, it was bound to happen. Perhaps stores need to do more for customers - like serve lunch or give yoga classes in the athletic departments. That way the consumer has a real reason to leave home. Plus it’s hip to offer the consumer a bit of his or her lifestyle while on the run.


Simone Mirman, milliner to the last generation of Englishwomen, including Queen Elizabeth has died. She was 96.

"I only make hats," Mirman said. But she did more than that: she offered women reassurance about their appearance.

Born Simone Parmentier in Paris, she served her apprenticeship with Parisian milliner Rose Valois at a time when there were almost as many hat shops as cafes in the French capital. She then joined the atelier of the couturiere Elsa Schiaparelli, and learned to make hats that flattered the wearer.

In 1937 she eloped to London with Serge Mirman, whom she married two years later. Neither spoke English, but she soon headed the hat department of Schiaparelli's shop in Mayfair. With the outbreak of World War II, Schiaparelli closed down, but bequeathed Mirman her list of customers. She and Serge lived in a Paddington attic, which they turned into a salon during the day because wartime clothing coupons were not needed for hats.

In 1947, her customers followed her to better premises near Hyde Park, and five years later to Belgravia, where she ran a salon for almost 30 years.

The Mirmans re-established old connections with Paris, and with its new fashion wonder, Christian Dior, for whom she made hats, while Serge was licensed to sell Dior's branded accessories, especially nylon stockings. She also worked for Norman Hartnell, couturier by appointment to the royal family, who bought hats from London's premier milliner, Aage Thaarup.

But in 1952, after Princess Margaret reportedly thought Thaarup's prices too high, Mirman was invited to show her wares at Buckingham Palace.

The royals began to patronize her, and the Queen and the Queen Mother later granted her their warrants. All three royals wanted different personal styles: the Queen Mother harked back to the aureolate hats of her youth, wide-brimmed and cargoed with frail flowers and feathers; Princess Margaret wore whatever was most modish; once Princess Elizabeth was crowned Queen, she chose her headgear to please the camera — brims, if any, turned back to reveal her face, crowns all-encompassing to hold her set hair safe beneath, clear colors to match Hartnell's ensembles, and unusual materials to stress her non-mundane presence.

Mirman's most remembered creation was a dramatic Tudor headdress for the Prince of Wales in 1969.

Mirman stayed fashionable into the 1970s, making fun versions of the mid-1960s brimless helmets appliquéd in plastic "jewels", and a cap with a PVC visor like a welder's mask.

After the hat business dwindled, she worked with daughter, Sophie, selling leather accessories and hats. She retired to France in 1990, where she painted until her eyesight failed.

Serge died in 1980. Sophie, who founded the Sock Shop chain and the children's shop Trotters, survives her.


Amid a four-act show at Cardiff's Millennium Stadium, a video interlude carried images of destruction, global warming, Zimbabwe's authoritarian President Robert Mugabe — and U.S. Senator John McCain. Another sequence, shown later, pictured slain Beatle John Lennon, followed by climate activist Al Gore, Mahatma Gandhi and finally McCain's Democratic rival Barack Obama.

The rest of the show had the usual Madonna fixtures: sequins, fishnets, and bondage-style outfits drawn from the 3,500 items of clothing reportedly whipped together by 36 designers specifically for the tour.

Dancers sauntered across stage in top hats and tail coats, and Madonna tried her hand at break-dancing and pole-dancing.

Some 40,000 fans — many in pink cowboy hats and boas — were treated to a heavy metal version of "Borderline," while "La Isla Bonita" served as backdrop for a flamenco routine. The show, billed as a musical mishmash of "gangsta pimp," Romanian folk, rave, and dance — was an homage to Madonna's reinventions over the past three decades.

"Sticky and Sweet" goes to London's Wembley Stadium on Sept. 11 and Paris on Sept. 20. From there, it goes to North America and wraps up Dec. 18th in Sao Paulo, Brazil.