By  on February 15, 2005

FORT MYERS, Fla. — Scott A. Edmonds, president and chief executive officer of Chico’s FAS, quoted the legendary aviator Amelia Earhart last week as he spoke about the specialty retailer’s future: “‘Never interrupt someone doing what you said couldn’t be done.’”

After posting a ninth consecutive year of double-digit comp-sales increases and reaching $1 billion in annual sales, Chico’s has planned more than 100 new stores planned for this year. That includes units for the White House/Black Market brand, which it acquired in 2003, and the intimate apparel chain Soma that launched last summer. Chico’s has no major acquisitions or launches planned before 2008.

“We’re looking to strengthen management and clarify our focus,” said Edmonds, speaking at the fifth annual financial analysts day at company headquarters on Friday. “We went from $259 million in 2000 to $1 billion in 2004, and we’re looking at $2 billion in the near future.”

Chico’s wants to strengthen sourcing in China and expand successful categories, including denim, high-margin key items and accessories. White House/Black Market will account for about 45 of the new stores as the chain  maximizes Chico’s sourcing potential and begins television advertising and Web sales. Soma, with 10 stores, will open six more, with potential to capitalize on an underserved lingerie niche, executives said.

Among other positions, Chico’s is searching for a director of Far East sourcing and a senior vice president of merchandising for both White House/Black Market and Soma.

For the Chico’s brand, this year’s biggest success was the November launch of Platinum, a premium denim collection inspired by the success of contemporary jeans lines such as Seven For All Mankind. Chico’s premium jean, at $78, is around one-third cheaper. The Platinum label will expand denim offerings and other categories, including pima cotton T-shirts, at $38 to $40 that customers perceive as high quality and value.

“We’re not trying to be Barneys, but we’re addressing the customer who wants better fabrics and construction,” said Pat Murphy Kerstein, executive vice president and chief merchandising officer, who added that consumer reaction was “way beyond expectations.”

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