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Bebe to Launch Active Concept

LOS ANGELES -- Bebe Stores Inc. is gearing up to unveil its sneaker-shod cousin: Bebe Sport.<P>The Brisbane, Calif.-based contemporary retailer said it will begin rolling out the "West Coast-oriented, actively inspired" concept in eight to 10 new...

LOS ANGELES — Bebe Stores Inc. is gearing up to unveil its sneaker-shod cousin: Bebe Sport.

The Brisbane, Calif.-based contemporary retailer said it will begin rolling out the “West Coast-oriented, actively inspired” concept in eight to 10 new locations out of a projected 25 to 30 corporate store openings set for 2003.

“We found that in the last six to nine months, we had a dramatic swing toward a casual merchandise assortment,” said John Kyees, the company’s chief financial officer. “We felt a store that offers that to [our customer] has real potential.”

Among the challenges, he added, are determining how the stores will be configured within the chain. Leases for some of the planned locations have yet to be finalized.

For the past two years, Bebe has been testing the retail concept under the Bbsp name in three locations: Watertower Mall in Chicago; Pentagon City Mall in Arlington, Va., and Mall of America in Minneapolis.

The stores will change their name to Bebe Sport from Bbsp to better make use of the Bebe brand name, said Kyees.

Averaging 2,000 to 2,500 square feet per unit, Bebe Sport stores will be smaller than Bebe stores, which are typically about 3,600 square feet. Specific prices have yet to be worked out, but are expected to be lower than Bebe’s average retail price of $55 per item.

Bebe didn’t elaborate on what the stores or merchandise will look like; they’re still under development.

A sales associate from one of the test stores said Bebe Sport is more casual, with silver details, not the wood finishes found in Bebe’s stores and carries mostly logo-driven merchandise.

The firm declined to comment on first-year sales projections. “I actually believe that the stores will generate solid first-year profitability and will add to the profit of Bebe Stores,” said Kyees.

Company sales in the third quarter ended March 31 fell short of expectations due to lower-than-planned inventory levels. Net income declined to $3.8 million from $4.3 million in the same period a year ago. Sales were $70.6 million, up 6.6 percent from $66.2 million reported in the third quarter a year ago. Same-store sales in the quarter decreased 8.2 percent.

Bebe operates 164 stores and sells Bebe, Bbsp and Bebe Moda names.”