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AUSTIN-Anna’s Linens, a soft goods discount retailer from Costa Mesa, CA, has Texas at the forefront of a three-year expansion plan to add 185 locations to a 155-store network in 11 states. The company plans to break into the Austin and Rio Grande markets and increase its Dallas/Fort Worth store count.

In the past year, Anna’s Linens has opened 19 stores in the Houston area, four in San Antonio and two in Dallas. “We’re hoping we can keep that momentum going,” says Todd Wallace, vice president and head of Dallas-based Staubach Co.’s local office. Staubach senior vice president Brian Murphy is heading up the Texas plan, which has Wallace scouting Austin and associate broker Daniel Taylor on the streets in Dallas/Fort Worth.

The retailer’s decision-makers will be in town next week to review sites for up to 30 stores in Dallas/Fort Worth and tour 14 locations for up to six stores in Austin, according to Taylor and Wallace. Three stores are planned for the Rio Grande Valley. The Austin stores could start to come on line in January and phase in over the next 18 months. The Dallas/Fort Worth expansion has a two-year rollout while the Rio Grande Valley’s shops could be up and running in four months.

In the past month, Dallas-area stores opened in White Rock Marketplace at 11255 Garland Rd. and Redbird Hill Center at 4241 W. Camp Wisdom Rd. Next month will bring a ribbon-cutting in Trinity Valley Shopping Center at 2630 N. Josey Lane in Carrollton. Taylor says the Redbird Hill Center set a first day-sales record for the privately held company.

Austin could prove to be the most challenging of the Texas markets. “Austin is a very difficult market because it has one of the highest occupancy rates for retail in the nation,” Wallace says. At last count, the metro’s retail was more than 95% filled. He says new centers will go on the radar screen “if the rents make sense.”

Stores range from 7,000 sf to 15,000 sf; leases carry five-year terms. The site scouts say the locations can run the gamut from power centers to neighborhood centers, in-town or the suburbs. So far, the search predominately has turned up second-generation inline space although end caps are the preferred real estate, as are properties anchored by grocery stores and top-draw names like Target and Wal-Mart.

Anna’s Linens, founded in December 1987, zeros in on locations with a 150,000 population in a three-mile radius and median annual income of $30,000 to $65,000. The company uses e-commerce and heavy direct mailings to hawk its bedding, bath and window coverings lineup, primarily American-made wares.

Besides Texas and California, the chain has stores in Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Louisiana, Mississippi, Nevada and Washington. But other markets will be opened up as part the three-year expansion plan.

Recently, Alan Gladstone, the chain’s CEO, was named “outstanding merchant of the year” at the New York Home Textiles Show and Home Products Fashion Association. It’s his belief the chain has “the opportunity to grow to 1,000 stores.”

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