BIRMINGHAM, AL-Despite a current sales uptrend in regional mall locations, Hibbett Sports will focus on open-air projects, executives said at its second quarter conference call.

Sales increases are higher in regional malls than in strip centers thus far in the third quarter, reversing a four-year trend. But this could be simply a response to the triple-digit temperatures being seen in the South, and not a major shift, said Mickey Newsome, chairman and CEO.

“We feel that strip centers are the future of Hibbett,” he said. In addition, strip centers are still expanding, while there are few if any new malls planned, and other enclosed centers are being de-malled.

Hibbett opened 17 new stores and closed three stores during the second quarter, bringing the store base to 634 in 23 states as of August 4. The company plans to open 28 to 30 stores and close two to four stores in the third quarter. For fiscal 2008, the company plans to open 90 to 95 stores and close six to 10 stores. “We have not set the specific goal for next year, but we believe we’ll be higher than that,” Newsome said.

Net sales for the quarter rose 9.6% more the previous year to $114.4 million. Comparable store sales increased 2.6%. Net income for the quarter was $4.7 million, up from $4.0 million in the prior-year period. (Each quarter of fiscal 2008 starts one week later than the same quarter of fiscal 2007, due to Hibbett’s 2007 fiscal year having 53 weeks versus the normal 52 weeks.)

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