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Apparel retailer reduces 2013 growth plan

Following a year of rapid expansion, specialty apparel retailer Body Central said it will pare new store growth to 25 units in 2013 from 39 openings last year.

Body Central opened 13 stores during the fourth quarter to end the year with 276 units operating under the Body Central and Body Shop banners which, according to the company, target women in their late teens and twenties from diverse cultural backgrounds who seek the latest fashions and a flattering fit.

The reduced pace of growth was announced in conjunction with fourth quarter financial results that saw sales increase 0.3% to $81 million, however same store sales declined 11.6% and profits tumbled. Net income was $2.4 million, or 15 cents a share, in the fourth quarter ended December 29, compared to net income of $6.1 million, or 38 cents a share during the fourth quarter the prior year.

To remedy the situation, Body Central a few days earlier announced a major restructuring of its merchandising group that involved the departure of head merchant Beth Angelo and four new hires.

Angelo’s responsibilities will be assumed by Andrea Jackson who joined the company as SVP/GMM and will be responsible for merchandising in all Body Central Stores. She most recently served as a DMM at Sears where she was responsible for juniors’ apparel and women’s dresses and outerwear. She previously spent several years in the buying and merchandising departments of Wet Seal and at Macy’s.

Other new hires included the appointment of Patti Simigran as SVP of e-commerce and direct merchandising, Debbie Martin as SVP of trend and design and Grant Simmons as vp of e-commerce marketing.

"These four leaders bring diverse and in-depth retailing knowledge in the areas of merchandising, branding, marketing, and strategic planning to Body Central," said CEO Brian Woolf.

Simigran joined Body Central from Maurice's, where she served as chief merchandising office. Prior to that, she was chief merchandising officer at Tabi International, a leading Canadian specialty retailer. She also held roles at David's Bridal, Sears Holdings, and Land's End.

Martin joined Body Central from Lane Bryant where she served as SVP of design, trend and product development and was responsible for vertical product integration. She also held roles at Chico's, Lis Claiborne and Talbot’s.

Simmons joined Body Central from Coldwater Creek, where he held numerous positions in the e-commerce and marketing groups, most recently as division vp of e-commerce.

"We have much to accomplish and an urgency to improve the product offering," said CEO Brian Woolf. "In addition, we will be focused on building the brand, improving our customers' shopping experience in our stores, and unifying our direct and store marketing to become a true multi-channel business."

He said the company would be modifying its prototype in 2013 and paring back expansion to 25 units.

"Lastly, we expect current trends in our business to continue to be weak through the first half of this year with pressure on gross margins. Longer term, we are optimistic about our business model and the niche we can continue to develop in the fast fashion segment."

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