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FRAMINGHAM, MA-Even with expectations of negative comp-store sales for much of the year Staples will continue to open new stores steadily in North America this year, executives said at the company’s fourth quarter conference call.

The company will open 100 stores in North America, including five or six Copy & Print Shop units, on par with last year. Stores will open in Minneapolis, Houston and Kansas City this year, and the company will look for locations across the United States and Canada. The growth comes despite expectations of a weak economy for the rest of the year.

“Our plan all along was to keep a steady or measured pace,” said Michael Miles, president and COO. “When others were ramping up new store growth, we were steady. There are still lots of trade areas where we have no stores. One hundred stores is prudent this year, last year and probably next year, too.”

Plans also call for about 10 new stores in Europe this year, and for expansion in China and India.

For the quarter (excluding the results from an extra week), total company sales rose 8% over the previous year, to $5.3 billion. North American retail revenues rose 4% while international sales rose 18% in US dollars and rose 8% in local currency. Comparable store sales decreased 6% in North America and 1% in Europe. Net income was $333 million, up 11% from the previous year.

For the year, sales were $19.4 billion, up 9% from 2006. North American Retail sales rose 1%, while international sales rose 18% in U.S. dollars and rose 8% in local currency. Comparable store sales for the full year decreased 3% in North America and increased 2% in Europe versus last year. Net income was $996 million, up from $974 million last year.

Staples operates more than 2,000 office superstores in 22 countries throughout North and South America, Europe and Asia.

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