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Wilsons to close stores, slash jobs

Wilsons The Leather Experts Inc. will close the majority of its 260 mall locations and cut more than 1,000 jobs, the clothing retailer said Friday.

Wilsons will keep 100 stores open, revamping them under a “Studio” concept focused on fashion accessories for women. All stores should be remodeled by August.

About 938 store-related jobs and 64 positions at the company’s corporate headquarters, overseas offices and distribution center in Brooklyn Park, Minn., will be cut.

Wilsons’ 120 outlet stores will not be affected.

It is the latest retailer to aggressively shutter stores. In January, Ann Taylor said it was closing 117 stores and cutting 180 jobs. On the same day, Eddie Bauer Holdings Inc. said it was eliminating 123 jobs, or 16 percent of its corporate staff.

Investors ordered up a second helping of foodmakers after better-than-expected profits Friday.

Hormel and Smucker both reported stronger earnings despite a slow economy, and Heinz said profits would be at the high end of expectations. Earnings slipped at Campbell Soup, but it said it would do what other foodmakers already have – pass along higher costs to customers. Shares of all four rose 4 percent or more on a day when the broader market was mixed.

“In tough economic times, the comfort, cost and convenience of a peanut butter and jelly sandwich gains even greater favor with our consumers,” said Smucker Chairman and co-CEO Tim Smucker.

Foodmakers have been struggling with high fuel prices and rising costs for ingredients such as wheat and corn, which also have driven up prices for animal feed. Many have passed along price increases to customers. Hormel’s Jennie-O Turkey Store turkey has been especially vulnerable because Hormel owns some turkey farms, meaning it is exposed directly to higher feed prices.

Morgan Stanley on Friday said Chief Executive John Mack received compensation valued about $41.7 million in 2007, a regulatory filing showed, a year when the investment bank’s profit plunged 57 percent.

Mack, one of the highest paid bankers on Wall Street, did not receive a bonus in 2007 because of the company’s losses due to the subprime crisis. Morgan Stanley lost $3.59 billion during the fourth quarter because of risky bets on mortgage-backed securities.

None of the executive committee members at Bear Stearns Cos., the fifth-biggest securities firm, is taking a bonus after a $1.9 billion write-down during the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, Merrill Lynch & Co. CEO Stan O’Neal was ousted from his job and didn’t receive any 2007 bonus.