SUFFERN, NY-Even as it plans to expand its Maurices division, Dress Barn is looking to grow by acquisition, executives said at the company’s first quarter conference call. The company is looking to take advantage of a slower economy environment to make a strategic purchase, said David R. Jaffe, president and CEO. Valuations of potential retail chains are down, as much as 50% in some cases, for a number of reasons.

“Performance has suffered at a number of retailers,” Jaffe said. “And the LBO premium has gone away. A lot of companies were talked about as a potential LBO target. With banks lending at a much lower level of leverage, that has gone away.”

Meanwhile, the company is continuing to expand Maurices, opening 14 stores in the quarter. Plans call for opening 17 units in the second quarter and 39 in the spring for an 11% growth in net square footage. About 20 units will be relocated from malls to strip centers. Dress Barn opened 17 of 20 fall stores, with 20 to close at year-end. Plans call for 20 new store and seven closures in the spring.

Total net sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2008 were $363.7 million, up 1.5% from the same quarter last year. Same-store sales declined 3%. A net sales drop of 6% and 8% comp-store sales drop for Dress Barn stores was offset by a 16.5% increase in Maurices total sales and 8% comp-store sales increase. Earnings for were $19.6 million, down from $27.4 million the previous year.

Dress Barn operates 835 Dress Barn stores in 46 states and 621 Maurices stores in 42 states.

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