STRETCHING THE DOLLAR: Dollar General Corp., Nashville, is on the expansion trail. The company plans to add 200 stores this year to its base of 1,841 discount units in 24 states.

The retailer reported first-quarter earnings soared 60.7 percent, to $9.5 million, or 17 cents a share, from $5.9 million, or 11 cents, a year ago.

Sales for the quarter ended April 30 advanced 29.4 percent, to $287.1 million from $221.8 million. Same-store sales gained 15.8 percent, a growth trend DG said it remains focused on. Earnings per share were above Wall Street's estimates of 14 cents and were adjusted for a 5-for-4 stock split last month.

CALL TO ARMS: Donald G. Soderquist, vice chairman and chief operating officer of Wal-Mart and chairman of the International Mass Retail Association, called upon retailers and manufacturers to consider going to Capitol Hill to push their agendas. Soderquist, addressing IMRA's convention in Washington Sunday, said Wal-Mart is "changing our posture" about coming to the Capital.

"We felt we didn't need to have a staff here because IMRA has been our voice in Washington," he said. "But what really has an impact is to voice opinions in person."

Health care reform is among the key issues facing the retail industry this year, and Soderquist and IMRA are opposed to employer mandates to pay for the programs. He also suggested that retailers arrange store tours for their legislators, let them talk to associates, and encouraged such tactics as a postcard campaign from employees to representatives.

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