By  on June 2, 1994

NEW YORK -- Ann Taylor Stores Corp. is clearly back in an expansion mode.

Sally Frame Kasaks, chairman and chief executive officer, told shareholders at the annual meeting Wednesday at the Plaza Hotel that the company will introduce a signature fragrance and five freestanding shoe stores by fall, is planning a 26 percent increase in square footage in regular and factory outlet stores this year and will give its catalog business a big push in fall 1995.

The 26 percent square footage increase -- or 230,000 square feet -- projected this year, will stem from the opening of 15 Ann Taylor stores, at least 12 factory outlet stores, and five new Ann Taylor shoe stores, as well as the expansion of 21 other Ann Taylor stores.

The company currently has 223 Ann Taylor stores and 11 factory outlets.

Plans also call for adding 200,000 square feet in 1995, and an equal amount in '96.

Coming off a strong performance in 1993, Ann Taylor's first-quarter earnings more than doubled to $8.06 million, or 36 cents a share. Sales climbed 20.9 percent, to $145.3 million, with same-store sales ahead 8.6 percent. Sales strength continued in May, with same-store sales rising 6.7 percent.

Kasaks said the May same-store gain was particularly encouraging because it came against an 11 percent increase a year earlier.

"The growth seen in the first quarter seems to be continuing in the second quarter," Kasaks said.

She attributed part of the company's new success to its product extensions, particularly in denim, petites and shoes.

The denim line has "energized weekend and casual assortments," she said, adding that the more casual looks have worked like a "feeder system" as young women buying casual clothing in college come back to buy career clothing when they start to work.

The denim line, introduced in fall 1992, is now in all 234 stores.

The company has also found success with petites, which were tested in career separates and dress categories in 25 stores in fall 1993 and are expected to be in 100 stores by August.

Ann Taylor's shoe business, which was in 99 stores in 1992, is expected to be rolled out to 155 stores by the end of the year.Ann Taylor stock closed at 35 1/8 Wednesday, up 1 5/8 on the New York Stock Exchange.

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