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AUSTIN-An Austin-based chain of jewelry stores will close 38 of 163 stores after the holiday shopping season. Samuels Jewelers Inc. said the move helps “address its profitability” by closing underproductive stores and moving about $11 million in inventory.

The company, which has stores in 23 states, did not specify ones will close. It said it intends to operate the stores through January 2002. Samuels already has closed 30 stores since last year. The company operates stores under the trade names Samuels Jewelers, Samuels Diamonds, Schubach Jewelers and C&H Jewelers in regional shopping malls, power centers, strip centers and stand-alone stores.

Randy McCullough, Samuels’ president and CEO, said the closings will leave the company with 125 profitable stores and a clean inventory. Samuels has engaged Gordon Brothers Retail Partners and the Ozer Group as consultants to oversee the store closings and liquidation of their inventory.

Samuels’ net loss was $6.2 million on revenue of $23.6 million for the quarter ending Sept. 1. Formerly known as Barry’s Jewelers, the company sought bankruptcy protection in 1992 and 1997.

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