Plus-size women's apparel chain Charming Shoppes Inc has secured a deal to acquire women's apparel, footwear and specialty gifts marketer Crosstown Traders Inc from JPMorgan Partners, the private equity arm of JP Morgan Chase & Co. 

Under terms of the deal, Charming Shoppes will pay approximately $218 million in cash for Crosstown Traders, plus the assumption of Crosstown Traders' debt. 

The acquisition represents a key step in the company's long-term growth strategy and is expected to be accretive to earnings per share beginning in the current financial year. 

Subject to regulatory approval and certain closing conditions, the transaction should  be completed during the second quarter of this year.

Charming Shoppes plans to continue to operate CrosstownTraders as a separate entity.

Dorrit Bern, president and chief executive of Charming Shoppes said: "This is a significant milestone in Charming Shoppes Inc's transformation into a multi-channel retailer, and provides us with a highly profitable platform through which we can increase shareholder value".

Dorrit added: "At the same time, this is a key step in our preparation for the launch of our own catalogue for the Lane Bryant brand in October 2007, when the Lane Bryant catalogue trademark reverts to us.

Crosstown Traders operates eleven catalogue titles, with 2004 revenues of approximately $460m. 

The majority of Crosstown's revenues are derived from the catalogue sales of women's apparel, of which plus-sizes is an important component, as well as footwear and accessories. 

Charming Shoppes Inc was founded in 1940 operates 2,230 stores in the US.

The company yesterday reported a 14 per cent first-quarter net income increase and a 2 per cent net sales increase. First-quarter same-store sales were static from last year.