SAN DIEGO-When the recession started in 2008, the retail sectordidn't seem like it was in the best shape. Consumer spending andretailer sales dropped dramatically, and after that, major chainslike Circuit City and Linens 'n Things shut down.

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Many attendees at the International Council of Shopping Centers'Western Division conference here are making light of the recentannouncement that the recession is over, and Blockbuster Inc. justfiled for bankruptcy. But a panel of retailers presenting at theshow make it seem like boom times, with many of them forecastingambitious expansion plans.

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Anna's Linens, which shares part of its name with one ofthe casualties of the times, is growing rapidly. The chain has 265locations right now, but management expects to grow that to 1,200eventually, adding 50 units next year. "We're here to grow," saidScott Gladstone, a vice president at the firm.

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The story of Anna's wasn't very unique at the conference. All 19retailers that presented expect to open several stores in the nearfuture. Chase Bank is opening 200 branches next year, Chineserestaurant chain Panda Express sees 75 in its future next year andPanera Bread's management wants 100 new locations in 2011.

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Supermarket chain Fry's Food & Drug, which is regionallybased in Arizona but owned by Kroger might not have the mostambitious plans of the bunch, with only 20 new stores planned overthe next five years. But it only operates 121 now, and they take upa lot of space at between 75,000 square feet and 125,000 squarefeet. It sounds like its plans could change soon though. "Eventhough it's a soft market, we know it's going to turn," said DennisBarr, the chain's director of real estate.

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