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Anna's goes shopping in the south

In preparation for its push into Florida, Anna's Linens has acquired six former Plej's units in Miami, the first of which will open later this month.

Anna's has also acquired five former Factory 2-U units — four in Texas and one in North Carolina. All are among the 40 stores the retailer will open in 2004.

"We've been so well-received in the Southeast," said Alan Gladstone, chairman, president and CEO. "The economics were such that these acquisitions were a good deal."

Anna's will supplement the Miami Plej's stores with six additional Anna's stores by year-end, he said.

At 15,000-square-feet, the former Plej's and Factory 2-U units are sized similarly to Anna's larger formats. Such units also allow Anna's to layer in more non-textiles businesses, a strategy it began pursuing across the chain last year.

The "things" side of the business has been "very well received," Gladstone said. It is also in this area that Anna's has begun to do some direct sourcing from overseas.

"Once you get above 100 stores, you're better able to benefit from that kind of arrangement," Gladstone said. Anna's ended 2003 with 170 stores. "The margin available on that end of the business is very exciting."

Anna's will also enter the Chicago market this year, its first entry into the Midwest. Anna's will open 10 to 12 stores beginning this summer, and in doing so will face its first true cold-weather market.

"We've been doing our homework," Gladstone said, noting that its target Chicago neighborhoods have the same density, ethnicity and demographic make-up of its traditional markets.

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