Other than replacing ZCMI store signs with Dillard's, the transition of four ZCMI stores in Utah and Idaho to Dillard's should be seamless, a spokesman for Little Rock-based Dillard's Inc. said Wednesday.

And unlike many such business acquisitions, employees of the four ZCMI stores being sold in Logan, St. George, Idaho Falls and Pocatello apparently won't have to worry about their jobs.

"We are welcoming all of the ZCMI associates to Dillard's," said spokeswoman Julie J. Bull. "We're offering everyone continuing employment, including current managers of the stores."

Dillard's announced Wednesday it had reached an agreement to buy the stores from The May Department Stores Co., which acquired the ZCMI chain of stores last year. The sale price is being kept confidential.

The deal is expected to close April 18, at which time the ZCMI signs will be taken down and Dillard's signs erected at the stores. After the closing, Dillard's will operate six stores in Utah and three in Idaho.

Bull said Dillard's will buy the existing ZCMI inventory — but not merchandise currently on order — and then phase it out as Dillard's merchandise is brought in to replace it.

She said she believed there would be a transition period during which ZCMI credit cards could be used at the stores but said that remained unclear. In any case, Dillard's cards would be immediately available.

No remodeling of the stores is planned in the near future, she said.

The sale of the four ZCMI stores came four weeks to the day after St. Louis-based The May Co. announced it would drop the century-old ZCMI name — an acronym for Zions Cooperative Mercantile Institution — and change the name to that of its Portland-based subsidiary, Meier & Frank, which operates 20 stores in Utah, Idaho, Washington and Oregon.

The May Co. acquired ZCMI — which promoted itself as "America's First Department Store" — in May 1999.

A spokeswoman for the ZCMI Center downtown said the name of the mall would remain unchanged because of its recognition and historical value.

Dillard's stores all operate under that name in 29 states.

The ZCMI stores being sold include a 61,000-square-foot store in the Cache Valley Mall, Logan; a 40,000-square-foot store in the Red Cliffs Mall, St. George; a 123,000-square-foot-store in the Pine Ridge Mall, Chubbuck, Idaho, a suburb of Pocatello; and a 125,000-square-foot store in the Grand Teton Mall, Idaho Falls.

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