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MINNEAPOLIS-Despite worries over retail sales and a rough third quarter for many retailers, two local chain stores say they are sticking with aggressive expansion plans this year and next.

Kohl Corp., a chain of moderate-priced suburban department stores, said it plans to enter the Atlanta market with 15 stores next year. The Menomonee Falls, WI-based retailer opened 22 new stores during the third quarter, bringing itscount to 320. It had 257 stores at the end of its fiscal third quarter a year earlier. The company also said it plans to open 55 to 60 stores in fiscal 2001. Kohl’s offers moderately priced lines from brands such as VF Corp.’s Lee, Levi Strauss & Co.’s Levis and Nike Inc.’s Nike. Kohl’s proved an exception this week, as it reported sharply higher earnings and sales compared to last year.

Meanwhile, Wilson The Leather Experts said that it opened 27 new stores during the third quarter, and plans to open an additional 19 by the end of December. The new stores will run the total to 70 new stores opened this year, a net increase of 55 units after 15 store closings, according to the Brooklyn Park, MN-based leather products retailer. Wilson officials called it “our most aggressive store expansion in several years.” Wilson officials vow to “to continue our expansion strategy” of achieving at least a 20% a year increases in sales and earnings. Wilson officials called El Portal, a leather goods chain it recently bought, a “strong growth vehicle.”

Wilsons Leather has 571 retail stores in 44 states, Canada and England, including 470 mall stores, 72 outlet stores, and 29 airport locations. The company, which regularly supplements its permanent mall stores with temporary holiday stores–it expects to have up to 240 holiday stores this year. Wilson’s quarter reflected the fate of other retailers, including Target, which saw earnings go down. Wilson, in fact, reported a third quarter net loss of $2.4 million, topping the loss of $2.1 million a year ago.

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