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Retail roundup: Barbie's Ken makes a comeback, 2010 apparel sales, Big Lots, chain-store sales, Valentine's Day

February 12, 2011 |  6:00 am

--Ken Carson, perhaps better known as Barbie's arm candy, is getting his moment in the spotlight with a new reality TV series and an updated look. It's all part of a strategy by Barbie maker Mattel Inc. to grow sales and exposure for the plastic heartthrob as he turns 50 years old.

--After declining more than 5% in 2009, the U.S. apparel market rebounded last year with a 1.9% year-over-year increase, according to market research firm NPD Group. Women's apparel rose 2.9% while men's apparel increased 3.3%. Spending on children's clothing was down 3.6%. In the women's market, skirts and dresses continued to be standout categories: Sales of skirts were up almost 13% for 2010 and dress sales were up nearly 4%.

--Discount retailer Big Lots Inc. is exploring a possible sale after receiving interest from buyout firms, according to Bloomberg News, which cited two people with knowledge of the situation.  

--Despite continued poor weather throughout the country, retailers posted a solid sales increase for the week ending Feb. 5. Sales rose 2.2% from the prior-week, according to the International Council of Shopping Centers. On a year-over-year basis, sales were up 2.5%.

--With Valentine's Day around the corner, men are snapping up chocolates, flowers ... and bras? Jenette Bras is hosting a "bourbon and brassieres" event at its Melrose Avenue shop in East Hollywood tonight from 6 to 8. The event is geared toward men who want to pick out a lacy bra or lingerie for their special lady friend. The store -- which sells only bras in sizes D and up -- will be doling out free drinks and advice on how to pick the right bra.

-- Andrea Chang