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Retailer remains bullish on textiles, sees opportunities

Textiles remains a priority for Linens 'n Things, and though the retailer has made considerable progress on some initiatives, the company sees a lot of opportunity, executives said during a fourth quarter conference call last week.

"There's momentum in that business," said Bill Giles, executive vice president and chief financial officer, adding he was excited about the future. "There's more freshness in the category, and more excitement overall inside the store."

Building on the number of brands LNT has introduced in the past, Linens will continue to launch new brands, as well as upgrade the quality of its textiles offerings and build assortments on a regional basis, according to customer response.

Overall, the company will look to improve sales productivity by upgrading its offerings and reallocating space among the departments, said Norman Axelrod, chairman and CEO.

Last year, Linens 'n Things maintained targeted in-stock levels, particularly on key items and advertised merchandise, which had a positive impact on sales, he added.

"We recognize that our initiatives are not complete, and that there is further opportunity to improve performance," Axelrod said. The company, he added, will "build on the momentum coming out of 2003."

Two hundred stores now participate in the store-ownership program — which gives store managers authority over a certain portion of their own merchandising. Stores in the program outperform the others in the chain, Giles said, and LNT plans to expand the initiative this year.

New stores are generating between $150 to $175 in sales per square foot, but there remains room to improve, Giles said. LNT will open between 45 to 50 stores this year.

During the fourth quarter, Linens 'n Things saw improvement in the textiles business, and it has transitioned some of its bath shop programs to alternate sources due to the Pillowtex liquidation, he said.

The company's non-textiles "things" business also saw strong growth last year, and decorative and seasonal areas performed well during the fourth quarter, said Giles.

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