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BOSTON-Finish Line, the Indianapolis-based chain of footwear and clothing stores that has grown mainly via mall stores but is looking elsewhere too, plans to open 70 new stores this year, according to its presentation Wednesday at the CIBC World Markets Fifth Annual Consumer Growth Conference here. Finish Line’s Glenn Lyon, president and chief merchandising officer, and CFO Kevin Wampler outlined plans for store expansions and other growth initiatives.

Lyon noted that, in the last two years, revenue has increased by 54% at Finish Line. “However, these are different times for us. The competitive landscape in the mall has changed once again, as it does quite often,” Lyon said. Based on this changing environment, “Our plan is for more moderated growth” that will produce “double-digit operating margins” that will translate into earnings growth of 15% to 20%, Lyon said.<pPAccording to Wampler's presentation, store growth will be "a big element" of Finish Line's overall strategy. "We are probably the only one in our sector of multispecialty athletic retailers that is growing with any significance," Wampler said. Finish Line added 71 new stores last year, he said, and is well on its way to that goal with 28 new stores opened in its fiscal first quarter.

Wampler said Finish Line, which operates about 650 stores, believes it can grow to 1,000 or 1,100 stores in the US, with 800 to 850 of those stores in malls, plus others in lifestyle centers and other possible venues. The company recently opened its first street-side location in Brooklyn, NY, and five stores in open lifestyle malls. It foresees the potential for 100 to 200 street-side locations as well as 100 to 200 stores in lifestyle centers.

The chain has also expanded via acquisition, purchasing the 37-store Man Alive chain earlier this year as a means of expanding its presence in the urban apparel business. The company plans to open 10 to 15 new Man Alive stores in this fiscal year and sees the long-term potential for 300 to 400 of the Man Alive locations.

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