KING OF PRUSSIA, Pa. - Despite a ``challenging retail environment'' in 1995, Pep Boys-Manny, Moe & Jack closed its fiscal year with record sales and earnings, as well as 75 new outlets. The automotive parts and service chain boosted sales 13.3 percent to a record $1.59 billion for the fiscal year, ended Feb. 3, and garnered a 7.6-percent jump in earnings to $81.5 million.
The retailer also achieved ``extraordinary increases'' in tire unit sales, although it would not disclose details. This came despite eliminating major-brand tires from its shelves early last year.
Pep Boys opted to discontinue stocking the Michelin Americas Small Tires lines and aggressively market its own Cornell and Futura tire lines, now made exclusively by Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.
Pep Boys said the action enabled the retailer to reduce its tire inventory while boosting its sales. The company has no plans to add other private lines, but it will adjust size offerings to meet consumer demand, a spokesman said.
Pep Boys attributed the year-end financial gains primarily to the net addition of 71 stores-ending its fiscal year with 506 stores in 33 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico.
Last year, Pep Boys opened 46 Supercenters, each with 12 service bays, and 29 Parts USA stores, which do not sell tires.
Fifteen of these new stores debuted in new markets, including Connecticut, Puerto Rico, Detroit, Boston, Indianapolis and Brooklyn, N.Y. Four outmoded outlets were closed.
This year, its 75th in business, the company plans to open 50 Supercenters and 50 Parts USA stores, with expansion focused ``heavily'' on existing markets, the company said.
But to reduce capital costs per store and increase operating efficiency, Pep Boys has decided to decrease the size of its two store formats-downsizing its Supercenters from 22,500 to 19,500 square feet, and reducing Parts USA outlets from 12,000 to 8,000 square feet-while maintaining their current merchandise offering.