By  on June 9, 2005

FRAMINGHAM, Mass. — Buyers at TJX Cos. are focusing on jewelry, accessories and footwear after those departments posted a 17 percent same-store sales gain in fiscal 2005 and led the Marmaxx division's improved results. Women's sportswear also performed well, recording a 9 percent gain.

Branded accessories "have been fertile for [off-price] buying, and so far we haven't had to expand into private label," chief executive officer Edmond J. English told WWD on Tuesday after the annual shareholders' meeting at company headquarters here. "We've just added more merchants in this area."

Based on favorable tests in Canada, TJX plans to change the facade of its T.J. Maxx and Marshalls superstores, which combine apparel with the Home Goods home decor concept. The stores will be built so that they appear to be two smaller stores side by side, with separate entrances. Inside, the units will maintain an open floor plan combining home and apparel.

The facade change has lifted sales in Canada and in the five remodeled stores testing in the U.S., English said. "We'll be rolling those out aggressively as the year unfolds."

TJX Cos. operates about 90 superstores in the U.S., competing with Target, Sears and Wal-Mart. Comp-store sales rose 5 percent in fiscal 2005 across the $14.9 billion company, the retailer's best aggregate performance in five years. Strength in the Marmaxx group — 1,468 T.J. Maxx and Marshalls stores — overcame disappointments from smaller divisions, including A.J. Wright, Home Goods, Bob's Stores and Winners, a Canadian concept. Those divisions, with the exception of Bob's Stores, struggled with excess inventory.

"We learned important lessons about inventory management in 2004," English said. He blamed A.J. Wright's $13 million loss on several factors, including a softening in demand for urban fashions and a lower-income customer struggling with higher fuel costs.

After the meeting, he said the company would be setting up proprietary inventory management systems, developed for Marmaxx, in Home Goods and A.J. Wright.

"We have several divisions now over $1 billion, so it makes sense to implement this at this stage of growth," he said.

The company is pushing forward with expanded accessories and footwear departments, making the larger departments standard on new stores and retrofitting existing stores. By the end of the year, two-thirds of T.J. Maxx stores will have large, central accessories areas with goods displayed on tables and rounders, akin to upscale department stores.

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