Footwear and branded lifestyle retailer The Walking Company Holdings Inc will close most of the stores in its Big Dogs chain by the end of January 2009 as part of a restructuring plan to focus on its Walking Company operations.

The Santa Barbara, California based company says the Big Dogs chain, which sells branded, lifestyle products, peaked at 231 stores, was reduced to about 140 by the end of 2007, and currently stands at 71 stores.

Agreements have now been reached with most landlords to close all but six to eight stores by the end of January 2009, and these stores will liquidate remaining inventory in 2009.

The company changed its name from Big Dog Holdings to The Walking Company Holdings in May to reflect its change in focus.
It says the Walking Company comparative store sales increased approximately 2% for the third quarter to 30 September, and has been trending up approximately 5% since late July.

CEO Andrew Feshbach said: "Despite the difficult retail environment we were pleased to produce solid comparative store sales increases over the summer.

"It is our expectation that our current positive sales trend will continue in the next quarter."

The Walking Company currently has 207 stores open and expects to open another three stores this year.

It said it will not post any profits this year, with the contribution from The Walking Company stores being offset by the wind-down of the Big Dogs chain.