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BALDWYN, MS- Hancock Fabrics, which last year announced the closing of 50 stores, says it will shutter another 30 of the chain’s locations, representing $18 million in annual sales, during the first quarter of 2007. The fabric and crafts retailer, which operates 403 stores in 40 states, gave no reason or timetable for the store closings.

The company said in a statement that it has hired two national firms to oversee inventory liquidation and market the leases, about half of which will expire before 2008. The remaining store leases will expire before 2015. The lease commitments total $8 million but Hancock says it expects to recoup between $5 million and $6 million from subleases or early terminations. The company expects to charge off between $4 million and $6 million as a result of the closings.

News of the closings comes as sales in January edged up more than $3 million to $35.1 million in the five-week period ended Feb. 3, 2007. Sales for January 2006 were $31.9 million. The company says the increase in January sales this year was due to an extra reporting week but that figure was partially offset by a reduction of 44 stores and a 4% decline in same-store sales. Hancock attributed the drop in same store January sales in part to severe weather conditions in the Southwest and Midwest.

Despite the rise in January sales, fourth quarter and full year sales were down significantly for the fabric and crafts retailer. In the fourth quarter, sales reached $111.7 million, down nearly $7 million from the $118.3 million in sales reported in the fourth quarter a year earlier. Comparable store sales also declined 4.9% in the period. For the full year, total sales dropped to $388.3 million compared to $403.2 million in 2005 while comparable store sales declined by 1.9%.

The company also announced that it will discontinue its practice of reporting monthly sales figures beginning in the first quarter of 2007 due to monthly fluctuations that result from the timing of holidays, promotional activity and the retail calendar.

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