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Digest

Retail sales fall for first time in seven months

By TIMES WIRES
Published May 12, 2007


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Washington

Retail sales fell in April for the first time in seven months as surging gasoline prices made consumers more cautious about spending in other areas. The Commerce Department reported that retail sales dropped by 0.2 percent from March. It was the first decline since a 0.6 percent fall in sales last September. Sales of autos dropped by 1 percent, while demand at department stores and other general merchandise stores was off by 1.2 percent. Analysts said some of that weakness reflected the fact that Easter came early this year, pushing clothing sales into March rather than April.

Tampa

Xerox completes purchase of Global

Xerox Corp. completed its $1.5-billion acquisition of Tampa-based Global Imaging Systems Inc. on Friday. The deal gives Xerox 50 percent more distribution capacity in the small business market for office equipment. Global has about 200, 000 customers and 4, 500 employees. Its top executives, chief executive Tom Johnson and chief operating officer Michael Shea, will continue to head the company, reporting to Jim Firestone, president of Xerox North America.

Miami

Lennar to ditch U.S. Home brand

Lennar is finally jettisoning the U.S. Home brand for new-home customers in the Tampa Bay area. Lennar bought U.S. Home seven years ago, but used parallel brands to sell homes in the region. This week, Miami-based Lennar deemed the time right to fly solo. Now Lennar will run two local divisions: Mark Metheny will head Lennar's Tampa North division and Mike Southward will lead Tampa South. U.S. Home sold 536 new homes from December through May in Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Hernando.

St. Petersburg

Despite offers, he's staying downtown

North Carolina, a state that's made a habit of wooing Floridians, recently made an offer to Don Shea, president of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership. The Downtown Raleigh Alliance offered Shea a job, but the package wasn't sweet enough for him to leave. Shea said his job is so specialized that he gets plenty of job offers. He ran downtown groups in Jackson, Miss., and New Orleans before coming to St. Petersburg in 2001. "It's nice to be wanted, " he said. "The only thing I'm guilty of is being offered a job." The partnership has played a role in landing such companies as SRI International.

Philadelphia

Makers of Equal, Splenda settle suit

The makers of Splenda and Equal on Friday settled a lawsuit over Splenda's disputed advertising slogan: "Made from sugar so it tastes like sugar." The settlement came after the jury announced that it had reached a verdict. Merisant Co., which makes Equal, accused Splenda of confusing consumers into thinking its product was healthier and more natural than other artificial sweeteners. Splenda's marketer, McNeil Nutritionals, countered that it simply has a better product backed by superior advertising. A McNeil spokeswoman in the courtroom said the amount of the settlement wouldn't be announced.

[Last modified May 12, 2007, 01:06:26]


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