Pier 1 to Invest $200M for Growth

FORT WORTH, TEXAS - Pier 1 Imports said it will invest about $200 million over the next three years to speed up its ecommerce initiative, improve infrastructure and technology, remodel existing stores and open new ones.
     The board also authorized a share repurchase program of up to $100 million.
     Pier 1 president and ceo Alex Smith said the plan includes moving up the time table for ecommerce sales, and it is now expecting to be selling online in early summer 2012. The company "has made and will continue investments in search engine optimization as well as extensive improvements to the content of its website," the Fort Worth, Texas-based retailer said in a release.
     It launched an in-store merchandise availability feature on Pier1.com in October and saw an increase in incremental visitors to its website, officials said.
     In late spring, it will launch a site-to-store initiative called Pier1.2Go, allowing customers to order and reserve goods online and then pick them up and pay for them in stores. Then it will move to full e-commerce capability in 2011.
     The retailer said 90% of its existing stores will be affected by store improvement initiatives over the next three years, noting among other things that it has developed new merchandise fixtures designed to give stores a more open look and provide mobility and flexibility for merchandise resets and seasonal changes.
     The company will roll out the fixtures to select stores, at first concentrating on its higher-volume stores. In addition, store remodels will range from minor cosmetic improvements in most cases to major overhauls including new flooring, lighting and fixtures.
     Pier one also said it expects to add a net 54 stores over the next five years after some store closings, growing to about 1,100 stores in new and existing markets in the United States and Canada.
     Technology investments over the next three years will include a new point-of-sale system and investments in the ecommerce platform, as well as replacing older software systems and enhancing existing ones in areas including labor scheduling, merchandise planning, warehouse management and store analytics.
     The three-year investment will be funded by the retailer's cash flow from operations, the company said. And the plan "will allow us to continue to build strength and sustainability into our business, improve top and bottom line results and with an overall goal of increasing shareholder returns," Smith said.

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