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[January 07, 2010]

Trans World closing stores: CEO says effort is key part of company strategy to halt downward trend

ALBANY, Jan 07, 2010 (Albany Times Union - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- Susan Boyle was good for business, Trans World Entertainment Corp. CEO Robert Higgins said Wednesday.

Boyle, the Scottish phenom who wowed judges on Britain's Got Talent TV show and had the second best-selling album last year, was credited by Higgins for boosting holiday music sales at the Albany-based retailer.

Still, the strong sales performance of her album and of those by Alicia Keyes, Lady Gaga and Andrea Bocelli weren't enough to offset a long-term downward trend at the company's nationwide network of stores.

Trans World on Wednesday morning reported that comparable store sales fell 5 percent over the Christmas and New Year holidays, a five-week period that ended Jan. 2. For the nine-week period ending Jan. 2, comparable-store sales were down 8 percent.

Still, music sales were relatively healthy, making up 31 percent of Trans World's business in December, up from 29 percent a year ago, Higgins said.

Video game sales, meanwhile, sank 17 percent after Trans World reduced promotional sales on hardware.

Companywide, oversall sales for the nine-week period fell 16 percent to $241 million from $287 million a year earlier. Eleven-month comparable sales through Jan. 2 were down 10 percent, while overall sales fell 18 percent to $760 million from $930 million a year earlier.

Higgins said Trans World is closing 137 stores this quarter and expects to end the year with 553 stores nationwide.

That compares to 690 stores on Oct. 31, 2009, and 786 stores on Nov. 1, 2008.

"The key part of our strategy is to close underperforming stores," Higgins said.

The company sells music, video and video games, and related products. It has faced increasing competition from online downloads of music. But Higgins said during a conference call Wednesday morning that Trans World has $50 million in cash and a zero balance on its revolving credit line.

Eric Anderson can be reached at 454-5323 or by e-mail at eanderson@timesunion.com.

To see more of the Albany Times Union, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.timesunion.com. Copyright (c) 2010, Albany Times Union, N.Y.

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