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FORT MYERS, FL-Chico’s FAS has invested $10 million in a minority interest in Lucy, an 18-unit Portland, OR-based women’s sports apparel chain that has stores on the West Coast. The move will put one of Chico’s executives on Lucy’s board of directors.

This is not the first time Chico’s has acquired an interest in another chain. Nearly two years ago, the retailer bought the White House, operator of the White House/Black Market chain, for $90 million. Since then, Chico’s has grown its store count from 107 units to 180.

Chico’s is also expanding its Soma brand, a chain of 10 lingerie stores geared toward women 35 and older, which the company launched last summer. The retailer is also expanding its flagship Chico’s chain, which currently operates 471 stores and 27 outlets in North America and plans to open 110 to 120 new units this year.

Marie Driscoll, a retail analyst at Standard & Poor, predicts that Chico’s isn’t planning ambitious growth for Lucy right away. “I think they’re going to sit and watch it for a year or two,” she tells GSR.

But future expansion would not be unrealistic she says, since it is a new growth area for Chico’s and there is little competition in women’s sports apparel in specialty retail. “Sports apparel is definitely a growing category,” Driscoll says.

Chico’s had a strong June financially. The company’s year-over-year same-store sales were up 18.8% for the month. Total sales increased 40%, to $131 million.

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