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SANTA BARBARA, CA-The Walking Co. Holdings will close its remaining Big Dogs stores by early 2009 as part of a long-term restructuring plan, the company said yesterday. However, the company will continue to expand its namesake shoe store chain.

The Walking Co. will open three stores this year, while Big Dogs, and active wear and accessories chain, has reached agreements with “substantially all” its landlords to close its remaining 71 stores. At its height, Big Dogs operated 231 stores, but by the end of last year had been reduced to 140 units. The company expects to be a six to eight-store chain by the end of January, with those stores retained to liquidate remaining inventory.

Big Dog Holdings acquired the Walking Co. in 2004. In May 2008, the company changed its name to the Walking Co. Holdings. For the third quarter, the chain posted a comp-store sales increase of approximately 2%.

“Despite the difficult retail environment, we were pleased to produce solid comparative store sales increases over the summer. It is our expectation that our current positive sales trend will continue in the next quarter,” said CEO Andrew Feshbach in a press release. The chain operates 207 stores across the US.

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