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Shoulberg PUBLISHER/EDITORIAL DIRECTOR

Anna's Linens Getting Ready to Hit 300

Alan GladstoneAlan Gladstone
LAS VEGAS - Alan Gladstone will be the first person to tell you that he is the biggest cheerleader for his Anna's Linens retail operation.
     But even he was in rare form at the company's recent annual summit for its management and suppliers here.
     "I've never been more optimistic about this company than I am now," Gladstone, founder and president of the 270-store chain, told Home Textiles Today in an exclusive interview during the meeting. "We just finished the biggest year in sales and profits in our history," he said, as privately held Anna's volume grew into the high $300 million range and profits doubled versus a year ago.
     Gladstone, who is never short of enthusiasm or exuberance for the company he founded in 1987 and named after his mother, says there's more to come. "February was the most profitable month in our history, and March is looking very the same."
     In comments to the 350 company executives and store management and a similar number of suppliers and vendors gathered for the annual event, Gladstone took center stage to celebrate the Anna's story and then talked about the year just passed and new initiatives for the coming 12 months with HTT.
     "There's no question that we took market share last year. We opened 22 stores in 2010, but as we have for the past three years, it was all infilling in existing markets.
     "This year we are planning to open 31 stores, which will get us to 300," he said. "And that will include at least three new markets," although he declined to identify which ones they will be. The new units will follow the recent footprint of 8,000 to 12,000 square feet and will feature decorative bedding and windows as core categories.
     But there will be several merchandising initiatives this year, he said, including an expansion of what he calls the "things" side of the business. Those will include more decorative accessories and impulse items, but not basic housewares products like small electrics. "And they will follow the same value equation." He estimated that these classifications will represent about 10% of floor space going forward.
     On the soft side, Anna's will put a much bigger push on the kids licensed side of the business, something it used
The Founding FamilyThe Founding Family: From left, Alan Gladstone, Carie Gladstone Doll, Shawn Gladstone and Scott Gladstone.
to do but had largely walked away from over the past few years. Disney character merchandise will be key part of that merchandise mix, he said.
     Licensing will also come into play on the adult side. "We're going to be going into an exclusive arrangement this fall" with a licensed program to be announced in late summer. Gladstone wasn't ready to discuss details, but the implication was that it would be a program keyed to the Anna's customer demographic.
    Anna's will still adhere to its basic mix of 80% replenishment/ 20% opportunistic buy strategy, with an increasing amount of goods made exclusively for the store and a reliance on the store name as key label. "Anna's is our brand, we just don't think there is a significant brand out there we should be focusing on," said Gladstone.
     Several years ago, there was speculation about Anna's going public, but Wall Street's lack of enthusiasm for retail offerings in general and the company's own financial position now mean that is not a certainty. "We don't need to go public to finance the company," Gladstone said. "We know if we run a great business, good things will happen."
     Until that time, Anna's will continue to roll along, the Gladstone family being the key, but not the only, prime movers. Daughter Carie Gladstone Doll and son Scott Gladstone both hold key senior management positions and Alan Gladstone is most proud of them. "They have both paid their dues and today they are vital parts of the company. Both Scott and Carie do what they do better than I do.
     "But over the past five years we've brought in executives from eight public retail companies," he added, saying Anna's is poised to continue to manage its growth successfully." Now we have the team."
     Don't look for Alan Gladstone to be cutting back his role anytime soon, however. He stars in the store's new TV ad campaign and is very much the rock star of the Anna's annual event.
     "I will always be the chief cultural officer of this company."

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