BusinessDallas Leading Indicators

Hear Them Roar

Y2K is shaping up to be the Year of the Woman in retail, at least for this area. Zales elevated Beryl Raff as its chief executive to head up the store’s 1,350 locations across the country. The once-proud but now ailing retailer JCPenney tagged Vanessa Castagna, formerly with Wal-Mart, as its chief operating officer and turn-around artist. And finally, after being hurt by puny sales and poor profits during one of the biggest housing and construction booms in U.S. history. Bombay Co. has tapped Carmie Mehrlander as its chief executive, president, and chief operating officer. Mehrlander is a veteran of Sears, Macy’s and, most recently, the Home Shopping Network. The company’s board is hoping to reinvigorate the company’s sagging stock price. To start with, she is rethinking Bombay’s locations (most of its 415 stores are in malls) and has recently hired a real estate consultant with the idea of getting away from high-rent, suburban malls where it does little more than subsidize the anchor tenants. Its new Southlake location is an example of what it calls “Lifestyle Centers.” Stockholders hope that Mehrlander’s Bombay will soon curry the favor of Wall Street (sorry).



Plastic Paychecks

Texas Capital Bank is trying to get rid of paychecks. Don’t get me wrong-they’re all for people working and getting paid for it. What they want to change is the way some people get paid. Employers have been offering direct deposits for years, but there is a whole segment out there that’s been missed. These are the people who line up every Friday afternoon in front of Charlie Viasanna’s Food Store on Harry Hines to cash weekly paychecks. Some of it goes for beer, some of it goes for chips, some of it goes for the lottery, and some of it goes to Western Union to be wired back to Mexico. But plenty head off to usurious check-cashing stores to give up a ridiculously large percentage of their hard-earned wages in return for greenbacks.

What Texas Capital Bank proposes is to give employers a little piece of plastic like an ATM card, charge it up full of cash, and let the boss hand it to the laborer on payday. Then the guy can go directly to an ATM for as much cash as he needs, bypassing the usurers. Valerie Freeman’s temporary placement office. Imprimis, is doing the beta test, and a full rollout is slated for later this month. Let’s just hope that Texas heat doesn’t cause a meltdown.



Latest Employee Reward:

A Sterling Coup

In what is being called the largest buyout in the history of the software business, Computer Associates wilt pony up to a $4 billion price tag for Dallas-based Sterling Software. Sterling Williams and brothers Sam and Charles Wyly founded the company after they formed University Computing in the early 1960s. One of the ironies of this transaction is that the buyer’s president, Sanjay Kumar, is a former employee of the trio during their University Computing days. Lesson learned: Be nice to your employees because you may end up working for them one day.



E-Commerce Hits the Big Screen

Piano-based Cinemark had lately been rumored to be up for sale, but chairman Lee Roy Mitchell says it’s a misunderstanding and the company was never on the block. Rather, Cinemark is now busy entering the area of e-commerce. Specifically, it is using the Internet to test sales of seats for specific show times at specific theaters. After sending credit card information online, you will be given a confirmation number that can be exchanged for a ticket at the box office or an electronic kiosk, Thismeans that you can give your 12-year-old a number instead of your Visa card. Now, if you could just find a way to sneak a Dr Pepper and a box of Raisineltes in his pocket, he’d be absolutely creditless and cashless. What a comforting thought.

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