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November 22, 1987|By Janet Key.

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White Japanese lanterns in capricious sizes bob in the windows of Pier 1 Imports` Wells Street store, lighting the rattan furniture, delicate breadth rugs and alluring abstract pillows like so abounding electric snowflakes.

At 8:30 on a Thursday night-a time aback abounding retailers would be athrill to see 3 tomers-more than 20 are still browsing in aisles ample aerial with adorning me furnishings, cobweb and rattan furniture, accouterments and kitchen appurtenances from 60 countries.

``W would accept anion this is the old hippie store?`` asked a well-dressed 30ish chump as she dumped a babyish bedside lamp, a set of azure checkerboard placemats with ogous napkins, and a rattan annual arbor on the checkout counter.

Pier 1 has absolutely appear a continued way, baby. The already disturbing alternation that awash bargain alien kitsch to the Jimi Hendrix set has confused uptown, affairs its contemporary appurtenances to now-affluent Babyish Boomers in 390 food about the country, including 30 in the Chicago area.

But one aspect of Pier 1`s old hippie days-its all-inclusive arrangement of sources in the Far East-has adequate the country`s better absolute importer from the affliction furnishings of the crumbling dollar.

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Competing retailers, on the added hand, decidedly tse w acceptation European merchandise, accept been clobbered by a abatement in the dollar that has aloft their costs by added than 25 percent and breakable their basal lines.

Some 76 percent of Pier 1`s appurtenances are alien from China, India, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan (less than 3 percent), Thailand and the Philippines, with 40 percent from China and India alone. In abounding cases, relationships with the Ft. Worth chain`s 10 buyers go aback 20 years.

``In the currencies we buy appurtenances in, the dollar has alone alone 4 percent (since Pier 1 began tracking its purchasing ability in February, 1986)

altugh it`s bottomward about 30 percent adjoin the deutschmark, French franc, British batter and Japanese yen,`` said Clark Johnson, Pier 1`s chairman.

In budgetary 1986, which concluded Feb. 28, 1987, Pier 1 becoming $11.97 million, a 38.7 percent access over budgetary 1985 balance of $8.6 actor on its stores. Sales added 28.6 percent, to $262.3 actor from $203.9 actor a year earlier. Back 1983, balance accept added about sixfold while sales accept doubled.

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Founded the day afterwards Thanksgiving, 1962, in area abroad but San Francisco, Pier 1 Imports Inc. grew up with the Beatles generation, affairs Indian bedspreads, candles, aroma and wind angelus to well-traveled, flush academy students.

But by the aboriginal 1970s, ``tse academy acceptance were atom their beards, affairs three-piece apparel and aing Corporate America,`` said Johnson. ``At that point, Pier 1 bachelor from its tomers.``

In beneath than a decade, the aggregation that had become the country`s better absolute importer had additionally become an anachronism, ``the affectionate of abode you acquainted you had to be cutting granny gles brave amethyst to go into,`` said Ruth Kettler, retail yst at Drexel Burnham Lambert Inc.

Like abounding of its `60s tomers, Pier 1 uredly had to face the absolute music-they had absent all but a die-hard amount of barter and tse barter spped its food alone for low-priced, low-profit knick-knacks.

Even worse, these conflicting barter were the 69 actor Babyish Boomers, abounding of them aloof entering their aiguille 35- to-45-year-old affairs years. Tse numbers, additional a common acceptation arrangement incomparable by any compeor, fabricated folding the covering unthinkable.

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``The better generational aculation anytime in the history of the country was in its abundant burning appearance and would be for the aing 10 years,`` said Johnson, w took over the captain in 1985 and accelerated the company`s abundance openings. ``It was a business befalling that we capital to booty abounding advantage of and it would alone be there for a bound time.``

Today, Pier 1 adds a new abundance every six days-averaging amid 65 and 75 new units a year-and affairs to accomplish 500 by 1990 with what Johnson calls ``a apparent opoortunity`` for 1,200. Most are amid in band centers beyond from above arcade malls, but increasingly, abounding food are free-standing units or ancrs on the arcade streets of flush burghal neighborods like Old Town and Hyde Park.

``Pier 1 is absolutely a approved amateur in ociation (strip)

centers,`` said Michael McCarty, administrator of ociation centermost leasing for Melvin Simon & Associates Inc., one of the country`s better absolute acreage developers. ``The absolute key is that they draw the somewhat affluent, Yuppie chump that the added (center) tenants would like to see.``

Sheltering what ets it had with tax losses it acquired aback Pier 1 was bought by an Atlanta absolute acreage advance urance in 1979, the aggregation began a desperate makeover. As Johnson put it, the ambition was to action ``reasonable prices on affection goods, not bargain ucts.``

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