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Cloth World stores sold to chain

The Cloth World chain of fabric stores has been sold to Fabri-Centers of America Inc., and the branches in the Tampa Bay area will be converted next spring into Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts shops.

Cloth World carries fabrics, sewing supplies and patterns for the home sewer. Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts stores have a broader assortment of products that also includes crafts and seasonal and home decor products.

"We have developed superstores throughout our network to carry craft products as well as fabric needs," said Alan Rosskamm, president and chief executive of Fabri-Centers, in a prepared statement.

"Our expanded product mix reflects the industry trend toward increased consumer interest in crafts and home decor," Rosskamm said.

In preparation for the conversion, according to Cleveland-based Fabri-Centers, Cloth World will be running major sales through the end of the year.

Fabri-Centers operates primarily under the name, Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts. On Oct. 3, Fabri-Centers bought Cloth World Inc. and its 343 retail stores from St. Louis-based Brown Group Inc. for $62-million in cash.

The deal made Fabri-Centers the nation's largest fabric and specialty craft retailer with nearly 1,000 stores in every state except Hawaii.

Brown Group's other retail operations include Famous Footwear and Naturalizer shoe stores.

In the Tampa Bay area, seven Cloth World stores are affected, including two each in Tampa and St. Petersburg. Other Cloth World stores are located in Brandon, Largo and New Port Richey.

Barbara Seman, vice president for marketing at Fabri-Centers, said the company is not expecting to close many stores as a result of the purchase. "The geographic fit has been nice," she said.

Florida is one of the first states where the company is converting Cloth World stores to Jo-Ann Fabrics and Crafts stores, Seman said, because the market is particularly strong.

Most of the Cloth World stores elsewhere should be converted within a year to 18 months, Seman said.