Women's plus-size apparel chain Charming Shoppes Inc on Tuesday revealed it has agreed to buy a 392,500-square foot distribution centre in Maryland for $17.3 million that will supply its Lane Bryant stores.

The Pennsylvania-based operator of 2,311 outlets in 48 states said in a news release it has acquired the White Marsh warehouse from Time Warner Entertainment Co LP, a unit of AOL Time Warner Inc.

Charming Shoppes said the completion of the purchase is expected to occur during the current quarter of this year and the new facility is expected to begin servicing its 655 Lane Bryant stores in early 2004.

The firm's Lane Bryant stores currently receive product through an Ohio distribution centre owned and operated by Limited Brands Inc which was acquired by Charming Shoppes' in August last year.

Commenting on the announcement, Joseph Baron, COO and EVP of Charming Shoppes, stated: "We are pleased to have secured such a desirable, well located site in Baltimore County for our new distribution facility.

"The White Marsh area affords us a skilled labour force, and an ideal distribution network, including the Port of Baltimore and access to the interstate highway system."

The company did not give any details on its plans for the future of its current warehouse or its workers.