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BENSALEM, PA-Executives at Charming Shoppes, the parent company of Lane Bryant and other women’s plus-sized chains, are zeroing in on getting rent reductions from landlords after closing 162 stores over the last year. So far, they said, it’s working.

“we’re already seeing some of the benefits of rent reductions,” said James Fogerty, president and chief executive officer, during the retailer’s conference call. “We’ve got stores that are not making enough money, and we’re working hard with our landlords to make sure that it makes sense for us to keep operating them. The best answer is for that landlord to partner with us, keep that store open and make us profitable.”

The company is also focused on improving sales on other fronts after a tough first quarter. “We must stabilize and begin to grow profitable revenue,” Fogerty said.

Year-over-year same-store sales saw the steepest decline, 15%, at its 884 namesake stores. The company’s 879 Fashion Bug units fell by 13%, while its 465 Catherines locations posted a 9% drop.

Overall, Charming Shoppes’ net sales were down 16.1%, to $103.2 million. The company also posted a net loss of $6.6 million, a steeper decline than the $900,000 it lost during the first quarter of 2008.

Fogerty said that Charming Shoppes strategy is to remain focused on the plus-sized consumer and improve inventory. “We’re staying in the plus business, and we’re doing it because there’s a lot of revenue to be had,” said the executive who was appointed last month, mentioning that mass-merchandise chains are beefing up their plus-sized options.

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