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NEW YORK CITY-Dress Barn, normally a retailer found in power centers, is looking at malls for future growth said David Jaffe, the company’s CEO. Jaffe spoke yesterday at Piper Jaffray’s 25th Annual Consumer Conference here at the New York Palace Hotel.

The Suffern, NY-based apparel retailer currently operates 774 Dress Barn stores in 45 states and is considering “B” malls as an expansion alternative in large and mid-sized markets. “We’re going to be looking very carefully at that,” Jaffe said, stressing that his chain has not always done well in those developments in the past.

Dress Barn is also looking at expansion options for its 477-store Maurices chain, which it acquired in January and mainly operates units in small markets in the Midwest. Jaffe said the company plans to expand Maurices to more than 1,200. The chain has a lot of potential to expand because it has very low penetration in such large states as California, Florida and Texas. The retailer forecasts 35 to 40 Dress Barn openings over the next year and 55 to 60 Maurices.

Meanwhile, Big Lots is trying to regain its footing in the discount sector by stressing to consumers, partially through a new television advertising campaign, that it is a leader in close-out deals, said executives of the Columbus, OH-based company.

Over the last couple years, the 1,500-store retailer had made a turnaround from lagging sales by posting year-over-year same-store sales gains. But that trend stopped when same-store sales last year were flat, due to, executives said, higher gas prices. “We know it has an impact on our business,” said Tim Johnson, a Big Lots VP. “We know it impacts our core customer.”

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