What's This, A Growing Department Store Chain?

I've never heard of this company, Peebles. It sounds like they open small-scale--like less than 20,000 square feet--department stores in small markets. It's a strategy designed to keep them out of competition with Wal-Mart.

There's a story about the chain making its debut in Wisconsin. The chain operates 655 stores in 33 states and is planning to open 45 this year.

Peebles wins that sort of affection by giving shoppers in rural areas an opportunity to buy brands such as Estée Lauder, Liz Claiborne, Mikasa, Izod and other department store names without making a trip to a regional mall.

The Mukwonago store is one of about 45 that Peebles' parent company, Stage Stores Inc. of Houston, plans to open this year around the country. Executives at the Peebles division headquarters and Stage Stores corporate office did not respond to several requests for an interview. According to the company's annual report to the Securities and Exchange Commission, Stage Stores plans to open 70 new stores in 2008.

Waukesha County shoppers who visited the new Peebles said it reminded them of a Kohl's store. Peebles uses a racetrack layout, with a tile floor in the main traffic paths and carpeting in merchandise areas. Most of the store is devoted to brand-name clothing, accessories and shoes for women, men and children. A small area of gifts and décor is located at the back of the store.

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