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  • Clint Engel

Fewer Top 100 companies plan expansions

HIGH POINT - Slightly fewer Top 100 companies are noting expansion plans for this year and beyond, but the dropoff isn't big enough to suggest real estate opportunities are fading.
     Forty-five of the companies on the Top 100 either said they would be expanding this year or are known to have expansion plans in the works. That's just three companies less than the 48 expansion-minded retailers on last year's list.
     Most of those companies from last year came through in 2012 as 42 retailers on the Top 100 added to their store counts vs. 37 that held steady and 20 retailers that dropped units. A comparable number was unavailable for one.
     In most cases, the planned expansions this year will boost the store counts of these retailers again as they add showrooms in new and existing markets. Some are expanding new concept stores, while a few retailers will just be boosting the size of their existing stores.
Here are some highlights:
     ► Bedding specialists will continue to roll out the grand-opening banners. Most of the bedding retailers on this year's list indicated big plans. They're led by the biggest, No. 6 Mattress Firm, which said it will open more than 100 stores this year.
     Put together, other bedding retailers will open at least that many. No. 9 Sleepy's expects to add 55 net new stores, and No. 11 Sleep Number and No. 19 Sleep Train expect to add at least 30 stores each.
     Sleep Train just opened its second Got Sleep? mall store format in Vancouver, Wash., after testing the concept in the Sacramento, Calif.-area last year. More Got Sleeps? are coming this year, it said.
     In addition, No. 55 Back To Bed/Bedding Experts/Mattress Barn is looking to add 24 stores. On a smaller scale, No. 60 Sit 'n Sleep has opened a new store in Chino Hills, Calif., and has three more slated for the rest of the year. And No. 76 American Mattress plans to open at least 10 stores as the Elmhurst, Ill.- based retailer aims to boost its total store count past 100.
     ► Two Top 100 companies are eyeing expansion into greater Phoenix. No. 23 American Furniture Warehouse's plans are definite. The 12-store retailer led by Jake Jabs has purchased land for a 586,000-square-foot showroom and warehouse in Gilbert, Ariz., that's slated to open in September. Jabs also confirmed plans for the Colorado retailer to open a second large complex in the area.
     While unconfirmed, No. 36 Living Spaces appears to be eyeing the market, too. The eight-store Rancho Cucamonga, Calif.-based retailer has signed a sublease agreement for part of the 133,000- square-foot former Great Indoors location in Scottsdale and has been advertising in the market for a sales trainer. Sources also say another Living Spaces store is coming to the San Diego area.
     ► No. 18 Art Van has been on an expansion roll for quite some time but this year it will venture outside of Michigan with its full-line Art Van Furniture concept for the first time. The Warren, Mich.-based retailer is going to new markets - Toledo, Ohio, where it will open a 90,000-square-foot store this summer, and Chicagoland, where six Art Van showrooms are slated to open from July through September.
      ► Ashley Furniture will be busy again this year, not just with its No. 1 Ashley Furniture HomeStores network, but with a new specialty bedding store concept. The company said it will open the first company owned ZZZ's by Ashley stores in an unidentified major market this year, and then finetune it for a major rollout of hundreds of stores.
     Ashley didn't say how many of its HomeStores are expected to open this year, but it's clear from the Top 100 that its dealer network will be very busy. No. 31 City Furniture is adding new and expanded HomeStores in South Florida this year and next year, along with a new 56,000-square-foot multi-line City store in Cutler Bay, Fla.
     No. 21 Mathis Brothers opened its first HomeStore in February in Owasso, Okla., and has plans for six more to open over the next two years or so. No. 42 Furniture Mart USA said it will open three more Ashley Furniture Home Stores this year in Spirit Lake, Iowa, Fargo, N.D., and Sioux Falls, S.D. That's on top of its other expansion plans this year, including the opening of a 65,000-square-foot multi line Furniture Mart store and 15,000-square-foot clearance center in Fridley, Minn.
     Also, No. 70 Morris Furniture, which operates eight HomeStores in addition to other Morris stores in central and southwestern Ohio and northern Kentucky, plans to open three more HomeStores this year. Other Top 100 companies that have either opened HomeStores this year or are planning to include No. 30 Hill Country Holdings, No. 47 Regency Furniture, No. 96 Wellsville Carpet Town and No. 98 KHF Holdings.
     ► Top 100 newcomers are poised for growth this year, too. No. 82 Phillips Home Furnishings operated eight stores at year's end - one Philips Furniture in the St. Louis area and seven Ashley Furniture HomeStores in metro St. Louis and Columbia, Mo. Its sixth St. Louis-area HomeStore opened late last year, and this year the company is turning its expansion attention to the multi-line Phillips store, which it wants to bring to new markets.
     No. 83 Bob Mills Furniture, also new to the list, has two stores planned for this year, including its first store and warehouse in Waco, Texas. The Oklahoma City-based retailer had estimated sales last year of $60 million at five stores in Oklahoma City and in Amarillo, Lubbock, Odessa and Temple, Texas.
     No. 100 LoveSac, meanwhile, plans to open a net six stores this year, pushing its store count to 55 units. LoveSac is the Stamford Conn.-based maker and retailer of modular and "alternative" bean-bag like furniture. Openings for the newcomer, which posted the greatest percentage sales gain on this year's Top 100 (up 48.1%), are planned in Boca Raton, Fla., Long Island, N.Y., and Chicago.

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