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DELRAY BEACH, FL-With housing sales down and the economy slowing, Office Depot has halted the opening of some new units in the US, executives said at the chain’s second quarter conference call.

New store openings in North America have been cut from 150 to 125 for 2007, and from 200 to 150 for 2008 to maintain the bottom line, said Chuck Rubin, president of North American retail.

“We believe we continue to have significant opportunity to expand our business, and we remain committed to expansion in existing markets,” Rubin said. “We believe we are doing the right things for the long term.”

Net earnings for the quarter were $109 million, down from $118 million in the same quarter last year. Total company sales were $3.6 billion, up 4% from the second quarter of 2006. North American comparable-store sales dropped 5%. The housing slump has affected furniture sales, and small and home-based businesses are cutting back purchases to ride out a slow economy, the chain said.

International sales increased 14% in US dollars and 7% in local currencies.

As of June 30, Office Depot had 1,186 retail stores in North America and 369 stores, either company-owned, licensed or franchised, in Europe, Asia and South America.

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