CLAIRE’S NET CLIMBS: Strong sales propelled Claire’s Stores Inc. to major profit gains in the fourth quarter. For the three months ended Feb. 1, the Pembroke Pines, Fla.-based specialty retailer reported net income swelled 161.5 percent to $40.2 million, or 82 cents a diluted share. That compares with earnings in last year’s quarter of $15.4 million, or 32 cents. Income from continuing operations increased 42.7 percent to $42.5 million from $29.8 million a year ago. Earnings per share beat the Wall Street forecast by a penny. Sales for the period ascended 15 percent to $322.4 million from $280.4 million, as comparable-store sales rose 9 percent. In a statement, vice chairman Marla Schaefer attributed the performance to tight inventory management, strong merchandise margins and expense control. For the full fiscal year, Claire’s recorded a 297 percent improvement in net earnings to $77.7 million, or $1.59, versus $19.6 million, or 40 cents, in the prior year. Sales grew 9 percent to $1 billion from $918.7 million, and comps were up 5 percent. As for fiscal 2004, the company is looking for same-store sales growth of 3 to 4 percent and plans to open 150 new stores while closing 89.

This story first appeared in the March 24, 2003 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.