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Pier 1 banking on e-commerce to take it to multichannel heights

Fort Worth, Texas - The days of recovery are long gone for home furnishings chain Pier 1 Imports Inc., which just ended its first full fiscal year and 14th consecutive quarter of sales and profit increases thanks to several initiatives - most recently e-commerce.

Now Pier 1 is focused on creating a multi-channel identity as it enters the ninth month of its fledgling ecommerce business. The site is drawing one million visitors per week and generating about double the number of transactions online versus in stores.

"The customer's response has been excellent and we are gaining traction every day," said Alex W. Smith, president and ceo, during the company's quarterly conference call this morning.

Textiles are gaining traction on the site. Pier 1 recently tested some extended categories like tabletop and rugs and bedding - the latter of which was introduced with no fanfare, Smith noted - and yet "the merchandise began to sell immediately."

He continued, "We are operating our store portfolio and new e-commerce site as mutually supportive, integrated and inter-dependent businesses."

The retailer is broadening online assortments and adding new product categories - also improving its planning and allocations, logistics and systems," he said.

"This summer, we expect to complete the implementation of our new [point-of-sale] system, which will be transformational for the company, enabling us to offer our Pier 1 Imports customer a seamless, multi-channel shopping experience and dramatically enhancing our capability to expand the business in the coming years," said Smith.

For the fourth quarter, ended March 2, net income declined 3.9% to $61.7 million, or $0.58 per share.

Total sales for the 14 weeks improved 15.7% to $551.6 million. Comparable store sales, on a 13-week basis, increased 7.9%, mostly due to increases in store traffic and higher average ticket.

For the full fiscal year, net income fell 23.4% to $129.4 million, or $1.20 per share. Sales rose 11.2% to $1.705 billion. Comps, on a 52-week basis, increased 7.5%.

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