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MOORESVILLE, NC-While cutting back its new store growth in 2009, Lowe’s Cos. will test a downsized format for use in smaller markets, executives said at the company’s fourth quarter conference call.

Of the 60 to 70 new stores expected to open this year (down 40% from the 115 opened in 2008), one will be in a 66,000-square-foot prototype.

“We’re working on that model right now,” said Gregory M. Bridgeford, executive vice president of business development. Most stores will be 94,000 square feet, although one unit will be 80,000 square feet.

The majority of these units will open in the first half of the year. Each site has been individually reviewed and the company’s plans for late 2009 and 2010 remain flexible “to adjust as we judge the macroeconomic climate,” Bridgeford said.

Sales for the quarter declined 3.8% to $9.98 billion. Comparable store sales declined 9.9%. Net earnings were $162 million, down 60.3% from the same period a year earlier.

For the fiscal year, sales declined 0.1% to $48.2 billion. Comparable store sales declined 7.2%. Net earnings declined 21.9% to $2.20 billion. As of January 30, 2009, Lowe’s operated 1,649 stores in the United States and Canada.

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