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by Kris Hudson

LAS VEGAS—It may seem as if no retailers are opening new stores these days, with retail vacancy rates touching multiyear highs and the likes of Borders Group Inc. and Blockbuster Inc. closing stores.

But several retailers on the expansion track are making hay this week at the International Council of Shopping Centers’ annual retail-leasing convention in Las Vegas. Walt Disney Co.’s Disney Store, in particular, unveiled plans Monday to open 40 new stores globally this year, up from its projection earlier this year of 25.

“For the most part, it’s premier mall locations” that Disney is seeking, said Paul Gainer, Disney Store’s senior vice president, in an interview at the conference. That’s “mostly A and B malls. But we’ve also looked at prime high-street locations.”

Other expanding retailers being wooed by property owners at the conference include Kohl’s Corp., which intends to open 40 stores this year. And dollar-store chains still are on a roll, opening dozens of stores this year.

But Disney Store is a particularly interesting case. The retailer appeared on the ropes in 2008 when Disney took back the chain from the Children’s Place Retail Stores Inc., which had been operating many of the stores. Disney then whittled the chain to 360 stores, including 220 in North America.

Since then, Disney has refined its retail focus. It shrank its ideal store size to roughly 4,500 square feet from nearly twice that. It now focuses heavily on wings of malls where moms push their strollers, often near the food court or other kid-magnet stores such as Gymboree Corp.

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