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FORT WORTH-Pier 1 Imports Inc. continues its fight to stay afloat, though is sales are still sluggish due to lackluster consumer demand, and it was recently rejected on a bid to acquire the Cost Plus World Market Chain earlier this week in an $81 million deal. Though it’s not as bad as the net loss of $56.4 million in first quarter 2007, the company still reported a $32.8 million net loss, or 37 cents per share, for the first quarter ended May 31, 2008. Comp store sales dropped 5.4% for the quarter as well, the company officials said during a conference call Thursday.

The company has undergone severe measures to continue operations, including the closing of 79 stores in 2007, and a plan to close about 20-25 stores this year, leaving the retailer with just more than 1,000 stores in the US and about 80 in Canada. The firm also cut 70 full-time positions in distribution centers and on June 9 completed the sale of its headquarters facility to Chesapeake Energy Corp. for about $100 million. The company signed a lease for seven years for 250,000 sf, but have a caveat that allows early termination after five years.

Alex Smith, president and CEO, said during the call that that even though times are tough, turnaround progress should still be made, albeit slower. “We must continue to work on the appeal of our merchandise assortments and the quality of our in-store experience so that conversion rates, units per transaction and average ticket continue to move upward.”

He’s also trying to put a positive face on the rejection by Cost Plus in its offer to issue 0.6 of its shares for every share of Cost Plus, or about $81 million. “We believe that our proposal is full and fair and we remain committed to working directly with the Cost Plus shareholders to make this transaction a reality,” Smith said during the call. Pier 1 shares opened at $5.42 per share and closed at $5.01 per share on Thursday, while Cost Plus shares opened at $3.50 and closed at $3.29.

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