Barney Rubble

WHAT'S BIG AND PURPLE AND flat on its back? Barney, the insipid dinosaur. And that's bad news for J.C. Penney. Last year, when Barney was hotter than a Jurassic-era volcano, the Plano (Tex.) retailer was one of Barney's biggest promoters. Most Penney stores devoted an entire section to everything from Barney sleeping bags to Barney stuffed toys.

Although Barney's television show is still faring well, toy industry sources say that Penney was caught flat-footed when the Barney toy fad cooled earlier this year. At one point, inventories totaled more than a year's supply for many items. Penney has slashed prices and dumped some items on liquidators.

Penney managers won't comment. But Debbie Ries, a sales director at the Lyons Group, Barney's creator, concedes that Penney hasn't placed an order since November, 1993. Now, she says, the retailer is "down to less than 20 weeks' supply," and hopes to sell most of that this Christmas. So much for just-in-time retailing.

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