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  • Cecile Corral

Anna's arrives in Florida

Alan Gladstone, chairman, president and CEO of Anna's Linens, last week came through on a promise he made almost exactly one year ago — to bring his growing home goods chain, based in Costa Mesa, Calif., cross country "to the Atlantic Ocean" by this spring.

Last Thursday, Anna's Linens entered Florida for the first time with four new units in Miami-Dade and Broward counties. This week, three more units will open in these same regions as well as Palm Beach County and, by year-end, another five units are slated to be opened throughout South Florida.

"We did it, and we're very proud," Gladstone said at the grand opening of the 12,500 square-foot unit here. "We've been following the South because that's where our customers are."

Anna's Linens' entry into Florida is part of the retailer's strategy to create a presence in the southern region of the country, where it sees populations of its core shopper demographic — ethnic and lower- to middle-income customers — growing.

Last spring, it opened six units in Atlanta and continued its southern march with store openings in Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama.

The South Florida units are all former Linen Supermarkets stores. The four that opened this week comprise: two units in Broward county — the site here and one in Hollywood at the Oakwood strip mall, which includes a Home Depot, Marshall's, Home Goods and Old Navy; and two in Miami-Dade — one in North Miami and the other in South Dade.

These South Florida stores, Gladstone explained, "are exactly the same in format, fixtures and merchandise" as are found in the rest of the chain. But, in this region, he expects local customers to focus their shopping on more basic merchandise and fashion goods.

At the opening of the new store here, by 8 a.m. — one hour before doors opened — a line of new customers was forming outside. By 9:30 a.m., lines to the four cash registers reached to the bedding department at the back of the store.

"We sent out about 60,000 circulars to people living within three to five miles of each new store," Gladstone said.

Prices for sale items were sharp in all categories. Some examples include: $16.99 for some queen-size comforter sets, 99 cents for a 24-by-44-inch bath towel, $5 for two 100 percent polyester-filled standard pillows, $9.99 for three-piece sets of sculpted bath rugs, $9.99 for queen-size jersey-knit sheet sets, $5 for two heavy-gauge vinyl tablecloths, $1 for two velour fashion kitchen towels, $3.99 for a solid-color chintz decorative pillow, and $9.99 for casual shimmer panels.

The number of "things" offerings — including framed art, fragrant candles, silk flowers, tabletop sets, kitchen jars and potpourri — is "a big part of our growth," Gladstone said. "As we get bigger stores, we see a great opportunity for these impulse, higher-margin items, and we're pursuing that strategy." No "things" items were included in the circular.

As it grows into a 138-store chain, Anna's Linens is also pursuing direct-sourcing opportunities, especially for vinyl products, sheeting and decorative bedding items, he said.

When asked about plans for the company to go public, Gladstone said Anna's Linens is "certainly exploring our options for the future — maybe in two years."

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