NEW YORK CITY-Liz Claiborne Inc. plans to continue its expansion by opening new stores and looking for attractive acquisitions, executives of the multi-brand retail chain explain at a conference of financial analysts this week. The company plans 100 new stores this year and up to 1,400 eventually.

“We plan to roll out in excess of 100 new specialty retail stores in 2006, and we expect this pace of store openings to continue,” Karen Murray, a Liz Claiborne group president, told those attending the Credit Suisse Consumer & Retail Conference. “We are aiming to own and operate up to 1,400 specialty retail stores over time.”

Michael Scarpa, SVP and CFO of the company, noted that Liz Claiborne has grown significantly through 12 acquisitions over the past seven years and will continue to look for additional acquisitions as a venue for expansion. “Growth through smart acquisitions remains an important part of our our strategy,” Scarpa commented. He said a key to the strategy has been integrating the brands into the Liz Claiborne portfolio “without losing their character” so that each brand remains unique.

As Murray pointed out, the growth has led to increasing sales, such as the 5%-increase in 2005 to $4.85 billion. About 61% of that comes from wholesale apparel, but retail sales were up in 2005 and now represent 25% of total revenue. “We are working to drive that revenue higher,” Murray told the crowd.

Commenting further on the importance of retail to the chain, Murray said, “Nowhere is the power of our portfolio more evident than in our direct-to-consumer sector, comprising our rapidly growing specialty retail stores, our outlets and our emerging e-commerce business, which will be continuing areas of growth for us.” A key to the success of the chain, she said, is: “The brands we are building each have a unique aesthetic with a clear and relevant target consumer positioning, and we believe they can be even more successful when sold in their own shops.”

Liz Claiborne’s store expansion plans will be part of $100 million in capital expenditures in 2006, according to Murray. “There has been an increase in capital spending in retail as we focus on growing,” she pointed out. In addition to new stores, the company is investing in new retail technology and in other initiatives designed to promote efficiency as well as customer service, she said.

Liz Claiborne Inc. designs and markets women’s and men’s apparel and accessories and fragrances under a host of brands. It also holds exclusive, long-term licenses to produce and sell men’s and women’s collections of DKNY Jeans and DKNY Active in the Western Hemisphere, as well as the exclusive license to produce jewelry under the Kenneth Cole New York and Reaction Kenneth Cole brand names.

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