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NEW YORK CITY-Bolstered by strong fourth-quarter results, luxury retailer Tiffany & Co. is slightly increasing its store opening plans for the year from 2006. Executives plan to open 17 stores internationally this year, representing square footage growth of 10%, up from the 8% added last year.

New domestic stores in Austin, TX; New York City’s Wall Street area; the Las Vegas Strip; Natick, MA; and Red Bank, NJ; among other markets, are on tap. Germany, Japan, South Korea and Singapore are among the foreign markets that will get some of the 10 units planned overseas.

Two stores will close in Japan, Tiffany’s largest foreign market, which is also the only entire geographic region that posted declining sales. Same-store sales fell 4% year over year during the quarter in Japan, as consumer spending there cooled. Hawaii and Guam also experienced sales declines due to fewer transactions by Japanese tourists in those markets.

Portfolio-wide same-store sales rose 9% during the period, which ended Jan. 31. Domestic stores were up 5%, Asia Pacific saw a 22% increase and European stores rose 19%. The best-performing US flagship stores were in Costa Mesa, CA’s South Coast Plaza mall; Chicago, Beverly Hills and Las Vegas. Same-store sales at the New York City flagship store were up 9%.

Net sales during the fourth quarter increased 15%, to $986.4 million, while net earnings were nearly $140.5 million, about equal to its Q4 2005 income. The company ended the quarter with 167 stores and boutiques in 18 countries.

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