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NEW YORK CITY-Despite a slowdown in the United States, Coach continues to expand in North America, while making major plans in Asia, executives said at the company’s first quarter conference call.

The company still plans to open 46 retail stores this year in North America, consisting of 40 full-price stores and six outlets, including 14 market debuts. In time, North American can support 500 retail stores, including “at least” 20 in Canada, said Lew Frankfort, chairman and CEO.

“We have been careful to open new stores in a very balanced way,” said Michael Tucci, president, retail division, North America, adding that next year’s openings are geared toward new markets.

Plans call for opening 10 net new stores in Japan in fiscal 2009 and annually. But China and Korea will see expansion, as well. During the quarter, Coach completed the acquisition of its retail businesses in China from ImagineX, adding the company’s 10 stores in China and Macau. Frankfort said the company will open 20 net new wholesale locations and five new stores in China, consisting of one in Hong Kong and four on the mainland. Over the next five years, the company expects 50 new locations in China.

“Our goal is to be one of the top three imported handbag and accessories brands,” Frankfort said. “We’re starting to replicate our success format in Japan.”

Net sales for the quarter were $753 million, compared with the $677 million reported in the same period of the prior year. North American comparable store sales rose 0.6%. Net income

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