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NEW YORK CITY-Liz Claiborne continues the expansion of its Juicy Couture stores, and plans to grow the chain from its current six units to 16 to 20 by the end of the year. Included in the push this year will be a second store in New York City, as well as locations in San Francisco and Milan.

The push comes as Liz Claiborne focuses less on its wholesale department-store business and concentrates more on its own physical store presence. This year, the company is geared to open 100 new specialty stores worldwide as well as 35 outlet units. “Our business is going to be much more focused on retail as we move forward,” said Michael Scarpa, the company’s chief financial officer, during the company’s second-quarter conference call.

Same-store sales for all 348 of the company’s specialty-retail units, which also include the Elisabeth, Lucky Brand jeans, Mexx and Sigrid Olsen banners, were up 6.3% year over year for the quarter, which ended July 1. During the period Liz Claiborne opened 29 Lucky Brands, 20 Sigrid Olsens, 12 Elisabeths and 5 Juicy Coutures.

Lucky Brand will has plenty of growth potential from its 115 current units, executives say. In August, the firm will open its first kids-geared store and five more are expected ot open by the end of the year.

The firm’s 324 outlet units did not fare as well as well as the specialty division, reporting a 2.1% same-store sales fall. The company opened an 21 new outlet stores during the quarter.

Overall, retail sales for the company came in at $338 million, up 14.7% from the previous year. Same-store sales for specialty and outlet units combined increased 1.8%.

When commenting on the current retail environment, Paul Charron, Liz Claiborne’s chairman and chief executive officer said that private-equity firms will continue to show interest in buying retail, like they have with the recent buys of the likes of Petco, Lord & Taylor, Linens ‘n Things and others. “Private-equity players are looking for branded businesses that are well-managed, that can profit from going private and can come back at some point in time having gone through some kind of revamp and reconfiguration,” he says.

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