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HAMPSTEAD, MD-JoS. A. Bank steps up its plan to open 60 new stores this year by scheduling 46 new units between now and Dec. 31 and at least 25 this quarter. Among the newest to come on line are units at Arlington Town Center in Arlington Heights, IL; Shoppes at College Hills in Normal, IL; Waterford Commons in Waterford, CT, and Abercorn Walk in Savannah, GA.

The overall goal, according to Robert N. Wildrick, CEO, “is to become the dominant menswear brand in the US.” Plans call for expanding the company’s current 287-store count to about 500 over the next three to four years. During the clothier’s first-quarter conference call this year, Wildrick said it might buy another chain in order to accelerate its expansion.

Without naming names, he hinted that an acquisition in the women’s apparel field was not out of the question, but he did rule out young men’s, junior and children’s apparel. Wildrick said any acquisition would have to add value from the start, and added, “it can be sick, but not broken.”

Meanwhile, the growth of the company’s catalog and internet sales combined are far outpacing store sales. Total July sales were $27.1 million, up 15.3% over July 2004 sales of $23.5 million. Comp store sales, however, rose just 0.5% this July versus last, while catalog and internet sales jumped 21.5%.

That follows a pattern set this year. Total sales for the six months ended July 30, 2005 increased 20.6% to $195.2 million, compared with $161.9 million for the first six months of 2004. Comp store sales for the first half of this year rose 4.5%, compared with the same period a year ago, while combined catalog and internet sales increased 24.9%.

“We entered July with significantly less clearance merchandise than the prior year,” said David E. Ullman, CFO, “which resulted in higher gross profit margin and lower clearance sales in the month.” The overall sales gain during July was led by increases in seasonal sportswear products, according to Ullman. Same store sales for the most recent full fiscal year were up 8.4%, while total sales rose 24.3% to $372.5 million. The goal for this year is $400 million in sales.

The market for men’s casual and formal workwear has shown “pretty solid growth,” according to Kevin Foll, senior specialty retail analyst for Chicago-based Next Generation Equity Research LLC. In general, Foll said, “the men’s clothiers market is not an over-stored environment, and there’s differentiation among the retailers in it.” The JoS. A. Bank differentiator is men’s classically styled tailored and casual clothing, sportswear, footwear and accessories, according to a company statement.

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