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November 10th, 2010In These Lean Days, Even Stores Shrink

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by Stephanie Clifford

Santa Ana, Calif. — A temporary wall slices the Anchor Blue store here in half. On one side are abandoned dressing rooms, a few mannequins and no customers. On the other are racks jammed with clothing and accessories — and more customers than ever coming into the store.

Tom Shaw, the head of Anchor Blue, a clothing chain for teenagers, looked with approval at the 2,500 square feet of empty space that his company still rents. Foot traffic is up more than 7 percent, the chain says, and sales have increased nearly 23 percent since the trial remodeling last year.

“We don’t want a department-store feel,” Mr. Shaw said. “With that much product in that much space you can get lost, not know where to go.”

Anchor Blue is among a growing number of retailers thinking small — chopping off big chunks of stores or moving to more efficient spaces. The change reflects two trends in the retail world: Chains looking for new ways to cut costs in the sour economy, and consumers demanding a less sprawling shopping experience as they spend with greater purpose.

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