NEW YORK — Jewelry retailer Friedman’s Inc. said last week it plans to accelerate new store growth in 2004 and also expects sales and earnings results above current estimates for next year.

The Savannah, Ga.-based firm now plans to have sales of between $675 million and $690 million, and earn between $1.70 and $1.80 a share for the fiscal year ending Oct. 4, 2004. Wall Street analysts currently expect the firm to earn $1.62 a share on sales of about $510 million. The increase reflects the consolidation of results from its Crescent Jewelers affiliate and assumes same-store sales results in the low-single digits and a total store count of 967 to 987 stores. The company now operates 681 stores under the Friedman’s nameplate, while Crescent runs 167 stores under the Crescent Jewelers and Joyerais Itza trade names.

Friedman’s had planned to discuss the guidance and business plan at its investor forum scheduled for Sept. 18, but the event was canceled due to its pending offering of 2.5 million common shares. Sales from the offering are to be used to fund new store openings, repay debt and provide working capital, the firm said.

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