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MATTHEWS, NC-Adjusting to its shoppers’ greater reliance on basics during a economic downturn, Family Dollar Stores will continue to increase its focus on foodstuffs, executives said at its second quarter conference call.

The chain has expanded the selling space for food in 2,700 stores, while cutting back on riskier fashion merchandise. However, it has recently given greater exposure to Bugle Boy men’s and boys clothing.

“We expect our strengthening of basic consumables and emphasizing quality and value will strengthen top line growth,” said Howard R. Levine, chairman and CEO. “We continue to explore what the role of apparel is in our business. Our customer today is focused on basics and consumables. We still believe in the apparel business.”

During the first half of fiscal 2008, the Company opened 123 new stores and closed 44 stores. Future growth will be measured, Levine said.

“We continue to be open to new store opportunities, a bit more opportunistically,” he said. “But our primary focus for our investment dollars is improving our existing chain.”

For the quarter, net sales were $1.833 billion, down 5.9% from the previous year, which had one extra week (also a holiday week) in the quarter. Comparing the same 13 weeks, sales rose 3.2%, while comp store sales were down 0.5%. Net income was $63.3 million, compared with $90.5 million the previous year.

Family Dollar operates more than 6,500 stores in 44 states.

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