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Pier 1's drama: 'As the store turns'

Increasing inventory turns and conversion rates are among Pier 1 Imports store initiatives going forward, executives said at Lehman Brothers' Sixth Annual Retail Seminar here last week.

Inventory turns have historically not been as high as some of its competitors because the company direct imports its merchandise, said Marvin Girouard, chairman and ceo. But it plans to ramp up delivery of basics items and top-selling skus to four to six times a year instead of once or twice. It will also continue to reduce skus in store by 10 percent to 12 percent, and right now each store has between 4,000 to 4,500 skus.

It also hopes to drive its average conversion rate from where it is now, at 26 percent, to 30 percent within the next five years, said Cary Turner, executive vp and cfo.

By the fall, bridal and gift registries will be added to the Web site, which continues to be an important marketing tool, said Turner. The site, which has 2,500 skus available, is growing at 33 percent.

The bridal registry is currently about 1.5 percent of sales, and executives see that doubling over the next few years.

Finishing off a strong holiday season and the best year in its history, Pier 1 still learned that people who bought for the holiday bought for the home and for entertaining more than they did for gifts.

"We'll get our share of [the gift] business, but we want to make sure we get our share of the home furnishings business as well," said Girouard. Pier 1 also plans more inserts for this year to tie in with its television advertising. Turner added that the time period between Christmas and New Year's is very strong for them.

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