HINGHAM, Mass. (MarketingClick/Reuters) – Talbots Inc. said Wednesday its fiscal fourth-quarter profits more than doubled, topping Wall Street forecasts, as the women’s apparel retailer shook off the effects of a dismal retail climate and moved merchandise through its stores with few markdowns.
“We are delighted with our fourth-quarter results,” Chairman, President and Chief Executive Arnold Zetcher said in a statement. “Customer demand for our classic merchandise exceeded our expectations in all concepts, geographic regions and sales channels.
The company said net income for the quarter ended Feb. 3 rose to $33 million, or 51 cents a share, from $15.3 million, or 24 cents a share, a year earlier.
Wall Street analysts polled by First Call/Thomson Financial had on average expected a profit of 50 cents a share. In early February, the company raised its earnings guidance to between 49 cents and 51 cents a share, citing a stellar holiday shopping season and strong full-priced sales.
Shares of Talbots closed at $44.60 on the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday. The stock, whose 52-week range is $19.09 to $54.99, enjoyed a stellar 2000, rising about 50 percent over the course of the year.
Talbots said total sales for the fourth quarter increased 24 percent to $473.1 million from $380.6 million a year earlier.
Retail store sales rose 21 percent to $387.7 million, including a 12.8 percent increase in sales during the 13 weeks ended Jan. 27 at stores open at least one year. Catalog sales rose 43 percent to $85.4 million from $59.7 million.
“Our goal in 2001 will be to continue to satisfy our core customer while broadening our customer base through a combination of a balanced merchandise assortment, outstanding customer service and impactful marketing,” Zetcher said.
“While it is still early in the year,” he added, “we believe we are appropriately positioned to achieve our objectives in 2001, consistent with our long range plan for continued growth and expansion of our business.”
The company said it opened 55 new stores last year and plans to accelerate its store opening program in the current year to about 78 new locations, resulting in a total of nearly 800 stores worldwide.
In addition, Talbots said it extended its common stock repurchase program to acquire up to an additional $100 million of its outstanding shares. The company completed the buyback of $20 million in outstanding common stock in December.
As of March 3, Talbots had 63.1 million shares of common stock outstanding.
Repurchased common shares will be held as treasury shares, some of which may be used to satisfy the company’s current and near-term requirements under equity incentive and other benefit plans.
Talbots said it has acquired more than 11 million shares of common stock to date for $173.0 million under its previous stock repurchase programs, which began in February 1995.
The company sells women’s and children’s apparel, shoes and accessories through its Talbots, Talbots Misses, Talbots Woman stores Talbots Kids stores. It also distributed about 58 million catalogs worldwide in fiscal 2000. Its e-commerce shopping site is located at http://www.talbots.com.