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LIITLE ROCK, AR-Saks Inc. plans to open its first store in Arkansas, a Parisian department store in the 300,000-sf Pleasant Ridge Town Center, a lifestyle center being developed here by locally based Schickel Development. The announcement comes just days after company officials said they plan to close eight Saks Fifth Avenue department stores and three Saks Off Fifth outlets.

Schickel officials have not set a ground breaking date for Pleasant Ridge but say they plan to open the center in the fall of 2006. Other anchor tenants the company is seeking include an upscale grocery store and a bookseller. The developer also owns the Pleasant Ridge West neighborhood center in Little Rock and Jefferson Square, a grocery-anchored center in Pine Bluff, AR.

Saks will start construction on the 120,000-sf store in the spring. The unit will be a Parisian “prototype,” says George Jones, company president and CEO, in a statement. “This store will be quite unlike a typical department store,” he says. “We have spent the past couple of years combing the world to discover the most innovate retail concepts, and we will incorporate many of these.”

Saks is closing most of the 11 department and outlet stores because they take up 7% of the chain’s total square feet, while accounting for only 4% of revenues. Analysts say the measure will improve the efficiency of the company’s portfolio.

Saks Department Store Group operates 240 stores across the country, 42 of them Parisians, which are in the Southeast and Midwest. The company also currently owns 64 Saks Fifth Avenues and 54 Saks Off Fifth Stores.

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