NEW YORK — Maybe Saks Inc. just loves kids.

The Birmingham, Ala.-based retailer on Tuesday said it has acquired mall-based preteen retailer Club Libby Lu stores.

Total consideration for the company was approximately $12 million, Saks said. According to industry sources, sales could hit $30 million by 2005 and stores reportedly do in excess of $600 per square foot.

Reached for comment, a Saks spokeswoman said it is the firm’s policy not to divulge further financial or operating information about the acquisition at this time.

Club Libby Lu owns and operates 11 mall-based stores, mostly in the Midwest, and offers what it calls an "experience-driven retail concept" that entails calling its young customers VIPs, or "very important princesses." The typical store is 1,100 to 1,500 square feet and organized into four "shopping zones:" Libby’s Laboratory for beauty and bath products, where girls can also mix their own lotions and potions; Libby’s Bedroom, for bedroom accessories, casualwear and sleepwear; Libby’s Jewelry Box for jewelry, and the Style Studio, where girls can be made up to look like pop stars or fairy princesses. Libby Lu does a brisk business in birthday parties.

While the acquisition was made by the corporate parent, Birmingham, Ala.-based Saks Inc., Club Libby Lu’s chief executive officer, Mary Drolet, will report to Saks Department Store Group ceo George Jones. Drolet began her career as a buyer for Claire’s Stores and later worked her way up to an executive position at Montgomery Ward & Co.

"Club Libby Lu offers a truly unique assortment of products and experiences to the ‘tween’ customer," said Jones in a statement. "This fresh, distinctive concept is consistent with the strategic direction of SDSG — to provide differentiated merchandise to our customers and to make our stores more exciting places to shop. We believe that the Club Libby Lu concept has great potential, both as a mall-based specialty store and as a destination shop within certain SDSG stores."

The move comes just weeks after Saks partnered with other investors to help FAO Inc. avoid possible liquidation by agreeing to purchase $30 million of the bankrupt toy retailer’s convertible preferred stock.Saks said three additional Club Libby Lu stores are slated to open during the remainder of the year and the company plans to launch more mall-based Club Libby Lu stores over time. Saks also intends to introduce Club Libby Lu in-store shops into approximately six of its department stores this year and to add more in the future.

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