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MATTHEWS, NC-Family Dollar will open 300 new stores in its coming fiscal year, executives say, the same number the company opened during the prior period, which ended Sept. 1. The new units will bring the discount retailer’s total portfolio to about 6,730 locations across the country.

The new stores come as Family Dollar posted modest fourth-quarter and fiscal-year sales gains in what management deemed a “challenging economic environment.” Same-store sales rose 1% year over year in the fourth quarter and 0.9% over the full year.

As it opens new units, the company will also add food-carrying coolers to 575 stores on top of the 5,100 units that now have the appliances. Enhanced food-selling space, which is now in 2,700 Family Dollars, will be added to an additional 2,800 locations.

For the store openings and renovations, management plans to spend between $180 million and $190 million, and it hopes that the improvements will attract customers during a time when consumer confidence is uncertain, says Howard Levine, Family Dollar’s chairman and CEO. “In this environment, consumers need the value and convenience that we offer even more,” he said during a fourth-quarter conference call.

Despite that, company executives are cautious about the coming year, forecasting same-store sales growth in the 1% to 3% range. They are also shooting for earnings per share to come in between $1.74 and $1.85, up from the $1.62 brought in for the just-ended 52-week period.

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