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BENSALEM, PA-Following previously announced plans to close 150 stores, Charming Shoppes executives are also cutting back store year-over-year store openings in 2008 by 50%. The retailer plans to open 45 to 55 new stores this year, primarily in its plus-sized Lane Bryant chain.

Additionally, the company is pushing its store-closure count to between 150 and 170 stores this year, executives said during their fourth-quarter conference call. The stores, most of which are set to close during the second half of the year, account for an annual loss of around $5 million.

Fourth-quarter same-store sales were down 9% year over year at the company’s combined chains. Lane Bryant’s 896 units fell 9%, the 989-store Fashion Bug chain dropped 8% and 468 Catherine’s Stores dipped 11%.

Meanwhile, net sales fell 12%, to $634.6 million, and Charming Shoppes net loss for the quarter totaled $23 million. For its fiscal year net sales fell 2%, to just over $3 billion, and the company reported a net loss of $87.7 million.

For the current first quarter, management predicts a high single-digit drop in same-store sales and a net loss of 6 cents to 8 cents per share.

The company plans to have a more focused promotional strategy than it did late last year, said Dorrit Bern, the company’s president and chief executive officer, during a conference call. “We want to get her in the store, but we don’t want to give away product like we did in the fourth quarter,” she said.

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