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NEW YORK CITY-Pier 1 Imports is adding more merchandise to its stores, but no new stores to its pipeline this year, CFO Charles H. Turner said at the Cowen and Company 6th Annual Consumer Conference here.

The company has on tap “almost zero” new store openings, and will close between 20 and 30 units this year as it continues its turnaround attempts. The closures largely will come through lease expirations. Over the last few years, the company has closed 280 stores while opening 363 units. But expansion is done for the time being.

“That’s being put on hold right now,” Turner said. “We continue to review every store.”

The real estate team is now examining each lease for possible rent reductions, a length matter given that Pier 1′s location in strip centers means that its more than 1,000 stores in the United States have several hundred landlords, he noted.

“If we can get a rent reduction of just $2 [per sf], a store that was breaking even can make a profit,” Turner added.

Instead, Pier 1 is increasing the amount of merchandise in it stores, increasing from the 2,400 to 2,800 skus in past years to 4,400 now. A particular focus is lower-priced impulse items. The results so far have been impressive – the chain reported a comp-store sales increase of 7.5% on a calendar-adjusted basis, a 1.3% increase for the fiscal month.

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