• Jennifer Marks

Anna's Linens Adds Talent for Growth

Costa Mesa, Calif. —In the latest of a year-long hiring initiative to salt Anna's Linens senior staff with Fortune 500 execs, the rapidly growing retailer has culled its latest recruit from industry heavyweight Bed Bath & Beyond.

Steve Delbello joins Anna's this week as vp merchandise and dmm overseeing bath, window, kitchen and decorative accessories. He was most recently dmm for window coverings, decorative accessories and framed art at Bed Bath & Beyond. Prior to that, Delbello worked in the buying department at JCPenney.

At Anna's, he will report to Carie Doll, svp of merchandising and marketing and gmm. Anna's two senior buyers — Peggie Galvin and Sheri Smith — will report to Delbello.

“Steve is a key hire for us,” said Doll. “He will bring best-of-breed thinking to our company, which will make us stronger as we position ourselves for a tremendous growth run.”

Kevin Mclain, vp merchandise and dmm, will continue to oversee sheets, basic bedding and fashion bedding. Senior buyer John Partington will continue to report to Mclain.

“We're going to be adding more staff in merchandising and our store support center,” president and ceo Alan Gladstone told HTT.

As of year-end 2006, Anna's had become the 18th largest home textiles retailer in the United States, with sales of over $300 million, according to the HTT Top 50 Retailing Giants. Simultaneous openings earlier this month in Lake Forest, Calif., in southern Orange County, and in Mission, Texas, brought Anna's total store count to 257. The company will open another 10 units before the end of the year, Gladstone said.

Delbello's hire is the latest in a series intended to position Anna's for national growth as it takes aim at a 1,000-store future. In early October, Miles Tedder joined the company as vp supply chain; he has a background at Lowe's, Sports Authority and Staples. This past April, Anna's added Pick 'n Save exec Daniel Felsenthal as vp finance.

The past 12 months have also seen the additions of TGIFriday's veteran Linda Wendt as vp human resources and Foot Locker alum Tony Sullivan as vp ops.

The value-oriented home fashions chain will open approximately 40 stores next year, Gladstone said. Most will be market in-fills to take advantage of TV advertising, which Anna's launched in November 2006. “It's broadened our reach” beyond the mailed circular demographic, he said.

Despite the housing slump and high gas prices, Gladstone said the business is “holding up,” with both traffic and ticket up over last year. Gladstone expects the privately held company to post “aggressive” increases in sales and net income this year.

With the slack housing market putting the bite on more upmarket retailers, “We're finding good buys not only in merchandise but in real estate,” said Gladstone.

Anna's just took possession of some former Ross Dress For Less and Hancock Fabric locations, he said, and anticipates the recent Movie Gallery bankruptcy will flush out more value-priced real estate.

The date for a future IPO remains uncertain. Having pegged a target once, then forced to pull back in the wake of Hurricane Katrina damage to Anna's Gulf Coast stores, Gladstone would only predict: “If we perform, and we continue with this level of growth, we'll have a lot of opportunity.”

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