Byline: Thomas J. Ryan

SAN FRANCISCO--Dollar General Corp. has hung out the help-wanted sign.
The general-merchandise retailer said it wants to hire a chief operating officer and president, a new post, within the next year in order to help manage its aggressive growth plan.
Speaking at Montgomery Securities annual investment conference, Cal Turner Jr., chairman and chief executive officer, said "no one should be surprised" if the company hires a high-profile outside chief operating officer and president "just to let you know that we're serious about getting the workers we need to control this growth."
Dollar General will open some 200 stores in 1994 to end the year with about 1,960 in operation. The aggressive expansion plans will continue in 1995, with 240 new stores on the drawing board. Most of the ribbon-cutting is slated for the South and Midwest.
Turner said the firm learned a lesson in the Eighties when Dollar General's profits were hurt by expanding too fast.
"We have a lot going on and we're going to make sure we have the management in place to deliver," Turner said.
He added that the company's new stores are operating at a high level of productivity. The older stores--which average about $120 in sales per square foot--having room for improvement.
"I personally won't be satisfied until we're up to $200 a square foot," Turner said.
The stores average about 5,700 square feet.In the seven-month year-to-date period, same-store sales rose 14.1 percent, which follows annual same-store gains of 12.7 percent in 1993, 16 percent in 1992, and 11 percent in 1991.
Kent Gardner, chief financial officer, said the firm has been helped by sharper pricing, better inventory control and by maintaining a low-cost structure. Softlines make up about 35 percent of sales and hardlines the rest.
Gardner also said the stores have been helped this year by setting up a bonus program for store clerks. He said every worker at the company now can tap into the bonus program, and this has helped the company in its recruiting efforts.
Gardner said imports increased to 24 percent of sales last year from 19 percent in 1992, and he sees imports rising to 30 percent of sales over the next couple of years, which should continue to help gross margins.
Last year, earnings rose 36.5 percent to $36.5 million and sales gained 23.1 percent to $1.13 billion. Gross margins were 28.4 percent of sales last year and selling, general, and administrative expenses were 21.7 percent of sales.
Dollar General operates 1,850 stores, mainly in strip malls, in the eastern half of the U.S.
--Fairchild News Service

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