Athletic clothing and footwear retailer The Finish Line Inc is buying an 18-store specialty running chain for $8.5m as part of plans to generate long-term growth outside core business.

The stores operate under banners including Greater Boston Running Company, Texas Running Company, Georgetown Running Company, Princeton Running Company and New York Running Company. Selling running shoes and apparel, they generate annual sales of around $19m, Finish Line said.

Key members of the chain's management team and store leadership will remain in place following the acquisition. Finish Line also plans to keep the stores operating under their current banners and will retain their culture and customer service.

"This acquisition is an important step in our strategic plan to drive growth outside of our core Finish Line business," said chairman and CEO Glenn Lyon. "We have a tremendous growth opportunity within the specialty running business with this acquisition as the foundation of that growth.

"We plan to expand the number of stores and develop this chain's first e-commerce capability as well as pursue other potential acquisitions in the specialty running business."

Indianapolis based Finish Line, which operates 647 stores, expects the acquisition to dilute earnings by $0.01 per share in fiscal year 2012 as a result of start-up costs.