HINGHAM, MA-Now that Talbots has completed its merger with J. Jill, the company will be in transition for the remainder of the year, management says, but that does not mean it will stop store openings. The company is opening 50 Talbot’s stores and 42 J. Jills by the end of 2006.

The openings will bring the company’s portfolio to 1,128 Talbots and 241 J. Jill units by the end of the year. Shareholders approved Talbots $517-million acquisition of J. Jill at the beginning of this month, bringing together two clothing chains that target women 35 and older.

Currently, the chains have a 75% real estate overlap. J. Jill will likely be the company’s larger growth vehicle in the future since it is the smaller of the two, said Arnold B. Zetcher, Talbots’ chairman, president and chief executive officer, during the company’s first-quarter conference call.

Meanwhile, the costs of the merger, in part, are prompting executives to expect a loss of 5 cents to 15 cents during the second quarter. “2006 will be a dilutive year as we build toward the future,” Zetcher says.

Though the company will no longer break out earnings or same-store sales results per chain beginning at the second quarter’s results, executives say that both the Talbots and J. Jill divisions will experience losses during the period.

During its first quarter, which ended April 30, Talbots (without J. Jill) had a year-over-year same-store sales increase of 0.9%. Net sales inched up 1%, to $453 million, and the retailer’s net income was $27.4 million, down from $34.5 million.

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