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OPERATOR: Good morning, ladies and gentlemen. And welcome to the Aaron Rents fourth quarter earnings release conference call. (Operator instructions) I will now turn the call over to Mr. Gilbert Danielson. Mr. Danielson, you may begin.
GILBERT DANIELSON, ANALYST, AARON RENTS INC.: Thank you for joining us this morning. I'm going to turn the call over briefly to Lee Wilder who works with us in Investor Relations. She's going to make the introductions and read our Safe Harbor statement and then we'll have a few prepared remarks and then we'll certainly answer any questions.
LEE WILDER, IR, AARON RENTS INC.: Good morning. My name is Lee Wilder and I assist in investor relations for Aaron Rents.
The Company's earnings release, issued yesterday, and the related form 8K are available on our web site at as www.aaronrents.com. In the Investor Relations section. In this web cast, we'll be archived for replay there as well. With us today are Robin Loudermilk, Chief Executive Officer, Ken Butler, Chief Operating Officer and Gil Danielson, Chief Financial Officer. Before we discuss the results, I would like to read the Company's Safe Harbor statement. Except for the historical information, the matters discussed today are forward-looking statements of the Company. As such, they will involve a number of risks and uncertainties including factors such as changes and general economic conditions, competition, pricing, customer demand an other issues that could cause actual results to differ materially from such statements. Including the risks and uncertainties discussed under risk factors in the Company's 2007 annual report on form 10-K including without limitation the Company's projected revenues, earnings and store openings for future periods. Robin, Gil and Ken will have a few remarks then we'll open the floor up for Q&A. Robin?
ROBIN LOUDERMILK, CEO, AARON RENTS INC.: Thank you Lee. Appreciate it. We're quite pleased with the fourth quarter for fiscal year -- and fiscal year 2008 results were very strong. Even in these difficult times, our customers continue to come to our stores to get basic home furnishing products. With the credit continuing to tighten and I believe over time we'll continue to see an increase in our business as more and more individuals see the value of Aaron's programs. These strong financial results continue to be negatively impacted by the new store start-up expenses related to the large number of stores we opened during the last year or so. But as we slowed down the growth this year, this new store drag has decreased as expected and is returning to more normal levels. We finalized during the quarter, the sale of our Aaron's corporate furnishings division which allowed us to pay down some debt which proved to be prudent in the times of uncertainty.
This will allow us to focus on our faster growing large market Aaron's sales and lease ownership concept. To maximize our success in this concept, we must remain focused on servicing and collecting or as we call it, renting and renewing from our approximately 1.1 million and growing customer base. Our plans for the next several years are to grow on average our store base in a range of 5% to 9%. Store growth was less than that in 2008 as we consolidated some stores, sold a few stores, that had not been achieving our profit goals and taking (inaudible) up the tough economic environment and strengthening our store management team. The slower growth than previous years will let us grow overtime in a more consistent, predictable and efficient manner and it should improve future profit margins as we've done here in the last year and overall financial performance. Thank you for your support of the Company. I'll turn it over to Ken for a few comments. He'll talk about the results of the ownership division.
KEN BUTLER, COO, AARON RENTS INC.: Thank you, Robin. Good morning and thank you for your continued interest in Aaron's. Once again I want to thank all of our associates, franchisees, partners and vendors for teaming together for the most eventful quarter in our history. Highlights were numerous. I'll start off the by mentioning the sale of our Corporate Furnishings Division the CORT. CORT elected not purchase approximately $18 million worth of inventory at original cost and consequently, our people have been busy emptying warehouses and shipping inventory all over the country into Aaron's sales and lease ownership stores. Most of the products have been leased, sold are now sitting in our stores ready and available for lease or for sale. Shortly after this deal, we acquired the assets and stores of Rosey Rentals, our second largest franchisee with stores throughout the southeast. Really, the net effect of these two transactions is we swapped corporate furnishing stores for what we do best, Aaron's sales and lease ownership stores. Additionally, during the quarter, we converted Tiger John Cleek stores in Missouri, a big University of Missouri fan, to the Aaron's program. This is the sixth such transaction like this we've done over the last year and a half and this one I make mention is Tiger is a resigning president of APRO, our industry's trade organization.
We're continuing to work on more of these types of conversions with outstanding operators throughout the country. We've also consolidated 20 of our RIMCO stores into Aaron's stores and now we're operating with only 10 stand alone RIMCO operations. This small group, remaining should be profitable. The 20 consolidations should enhance the profit in the respected Aaron's stores. Not to get sidetracked from our biggest event during the quarter is our continued growth of new customers. That is our number one metric that we look at to determine the overall health of our business and I'm proud to report our business is indeed healthy. During the quarter, we gain 68,000 new customers. That's a net gain of our deliveries, returns, chargeoffs and customer payouts. Last year's net gain was a respectable 50,000. So our store has gained a whopping 36% more customers than a year ago in the same quarter. Our business climate as you can imagine is upbeat. We look forward to continuing delivering positive results throughout 2009.
GILBERT DANIELSON: Thanks, Ken. I'll go over some of the financial results for the quarter that were in the press release. As noted in the release, we talked about it, certainly the sale of the Aaron's corporate furnishings division was consummated in November. We received a just little bit over $75 million in cash relating that sale. The Company revenues for the quarter which are now basically from continuing operations are the Aaron's sales and lease ownership revenues. Increased 11% for the quarter and 14% for the year. Annual revenue is almost $1.6 billion. In addition, our franchisees collectively increased their revenues $171.8 million in the fourth quarter and $655 million …