• Warren Shoulberg

Anna's Linens Hitting New Heights

If it wasn’t aLAS VEGAS - It was all Anna's all the time: So what else is new?
     The annual Anna's Linens Managers Conference and Vendor Summit, held here late last month, once more proved to be a lovefest for the specialty retail chain that has defied the odds and prospered where few other operations have.
     But 2012 will be an especially momentous year for the company. It will celebrate its 25th anniversary by opening its 300th store and moving off the continental United States for the first time with the opening of two stores in Puerto Rico next month. It will cross - if it hasn't already - the $400 million threshold in annual sales. And it will continue to expand its merchandising horizons into better goods and more hard goods.
     As Alan Gladstone, founder, president, son of company namesake Anna and the chief cheerleader for the company, will tell you at the drop of a curtain, you ain't seen nothing yet.
     "I know I'm prejudiced, but this is something special," he told HTT in an exclusive interview during the event here, which attracted some 400 Anna's employees and close to 300 suppliers. "We started with one store and a dream and now what we've created is a company that we believe is very unique."
     You certainly wouldn't get any argument from the managers, merchandisers and employees in attendance for the awards dinner, training session and merchandise show held at Planet Hollywood here. They cheered, applauded and whooped at every opportunity in an environment more closely resembling a revival meeting than a business conference.

At right,At right, from top to bottom: At the vendor reception, from left, Carie Doll of Anna’s, Park Smith of Park B. Smith, Alan Gladstone of Anna’s, Linda Smith of Park B. Smith and Scott Gladstone of Anna’s.
From Triangle Home, from left, Jeff Swartz, Allen Darwin, Jared Cohen and Jenny Zhu.
From Triangle
CelebratingCelebrating Anna’s were, from left, Henny Lakin and Bob Weiss of Creative Bath, Peggy Galvin of Anna’s, sales rep Lynn Gusto and Jeff Moss of Welspun.
Below: At the Anna’s party were, from left, Rick Barry of Genieco, Andi Stanfa of Franco and Dana Morrison of Genieco.
At the Anna’s

     But the enthusiasm was anything but forced. Gladstone said Anna's opened 30 stores during calendar 2011 taking it to just under 300 units. With five new stores opened already, the 2012 tally is forecast to include 25 additional units, another 25 remodels and ten relocations. Puerto Rico will be one of two new market areas Anna's will enter this year, though he declined to mention the other for competitive reasons.
     The new stores will continue to focus on 10,000-square-foot layouts heavily skewed toward bedding and window, although hard goods, including house wares and decorative accessories, will continue to grow as a percentage of store sales. They now represent just 5% of the total but could get to as much as 20% eventually.
     Anna's customers are also finding a merchandising mix pushing the upper end of the envelope a bit more than in the past, he said. "We've raised the quality and some of our upper price points over the past year. Our customers told us that perhaps we were too limited in our assortments."
     Gladstone said the overall economy continues to impact the store's lower income customers and that while he believes Anna's once again gained market share in 2011, it must remain vigilant in appealing to that core shopper group.
     In the meantime, Anna's rolls along. With daughter Carie Gladstone Doll in charge of all merchandising and son Scott Gladstone handling many areas of operations - "I'm so proud of both of them and so glad they are here." - Gladstone said Anna's is set for the challenges and opportunities ahead. "I am the most appreciative person ever."

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