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PLEASANTON, CA-Ross Stores will continue to grow, but in existing markets, and will cut expansion of its dd’s Discounts chain, executives said at the company’s fourth-quarter conference call. For 2008, the retailer plans to open 65 to 70 net new Ross units, similar to 2007′s figures, but only five dd’s stores, down from 26 last year.

“We doubled the size of the dd’s Discounts chain in 2008, but new stores underperformed,” said Michael Balmuth, vice chairman, president and CEO. “For the next year or so, we’ll focus on gaining a better understanding of our customer. This will give us a better opportunity of fine-tuning our assortments to better address customer wants and needs.”

A focus on stronger existing markets for Ross Stores also means that store openings in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic will be limited in 2009 and 2010.

For the quarter, sales were $1.65 billion, up 3.0% from the previous year. Comparable store sales rose 2%. Net earnings were $94.5 million, compared with $93.1 million in the same quarter last year (which had 14 weeks).

Sales for the 2007 fiscal year increased 7% from 2006 to $5.975 billion. Comparable-store sales rose 1%. Net earnings totaled $261.1 million, compared with $241.6 million for the 53-week previous year

Ross Stores operates 838 Ross Dress for Less stores and 54 dd’s Discounts stores.

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