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Louis Vuitton, maker of satchels and suitcases for celebrities and rock stars, plans to open an in-store shop at Nordstrom on North Michigan Avenue as soon as this summer. It will be the French luxury retailer's first boutique inside a Nordstrom.

The shop, which will be on the first floor by the shoe department, comes as Seattle-based Nordstrom Inc. takes steps to expand its designer business and LVMH Moet Hennesy Louis Vuitton, parent of the leather goods design house, looks for new avenues of growth.

LVMH has been expanding in the U.S. even as consumer spending retreats. U.S. sales of fashion and leather goods rose 18 percent in the first quarter, and there are "no signs of slowing down," said Jean-Jacques Guiony, the company's chief financial officer, in an April 16 conference call with analysts.

Nordstrom said in February that sales of designer goods remained strong in the fourth quarter even as total sales at stores open at least one year were flat.

"Designers are really a growing part of our business and, relatively as just a subset, has continued to grow faster than any other category we have, and that's across all merchandise categories, so we keep investing," said Peter Nordstrom, president of merchandising, in a February conference call with analysts.

The shop will be the third Louis Vuitton boutique on North Michigan Avenue. A flagship Louis Vuitton store opened in 2003 at the north end of the Magnificent Mile. Saks Fifth Avenue also has an in-store shop.

April sales likely mixed: When retailers report same-store sales Thursday, look for warehouse clubs, off-price retailers and Wal-Mart to do well while department stores and apparel retailers will lag, said Standard & Poor's retail analyst Marie Driscoll.

"We think mall traffic remains weak and average ticket is off as well," wrote Driscoll in a Friday report, noting shoppers are buying fewer items per transaction and are looking for promotions. The consumer is "not in a spending mood," the report said.

Macy's squashes rumors: Big retail chains from Starbucks to Home Depot are closing stores as consumer spending wanes. Not Macy's, at least not in any big way, said Karen Hoguet, the company's chief financial officer.

"There have been rumors floating at various times over the past couple months that we were about to announce a 100-store closure, a 50-store closure," said Hoguet, speaking at a Lehman Brothers conference in New York earlier this week. "It's not going to happen."

Macy's announced in December that it was shuttering nine stores. The retailer operates more than 800 stores nationwide.

Too much paper at Sears?: Environmental activists plan to picket Sears Holdings Corp.'s annual meeting in Hoffman Estates on Monday in a bid to get the retailer to change its catalog practices.

ForestEthics, a non-profit organization that aims to save forests by cutting down junk mail and urging companies to use recycled paper for their catalogs, has been campaigning for Sears to join the ranks of eco-friendly catalog companies.

The picketing moves to the Sears State Street store in Chicago at noon.
- chicagotribune