SMALL FALL AT WHITEHALL: Whitehall Jewellers said Wednesday that fourth-quarter income fell 4.8 percent to $15.1 million, or $1.05 a share, for the three months ended Jan. 31, beating Wall Street’s forecast of 92 cents. Last year, the Chicago-based specialty jewelry retailer reported income of $15.8 million, or $1.07. Sales for the quarter declined 1.6 percent to $128.4 million from $130.5 million and fell 4 percent on a comparable-store basis. For the full year, income rose 4.4 percent to $10.5 million, or 70 cents, compared with 2001 income of $10.1 million, or 69 cents. Sales inched up 0.6 percent to $341 million over sales of $338.9 million, but slipped 1.9 percent on a comp basis. Whitehall said that, following an audit, it will restate earnings for the first three quarters of 2002, adding 2 cents a share to losses for the nine months, to correct the improper accounting of various vendor incentives, allowances and discounts that were initially recorded as reductions in the cost of goods sold, and should have been reflected in the weighted average cost of inventory. The company expects to file amended Forms 10-Q with the Securities and Exchange Commission to reflect the revisions, which will have no cash impact. Although the company did not detail financial guidance, it expects earnings to be lower in the first half of fiscal 2003, but said it is cautiously optimistic profitability should improve in the second half due to planned sales initiatives.
BON-TON GAIN: Bon-Ton Stores Inc. posted single-digit gains in both fourth-quarter and year-end results. For the three months ended Feb. 1, income was up 2.6 percent to $15.2 million, or $1 a diluted share, from $14.8 million, or 97 cents, in the year-ago quarter. Sales declined 1.7 percent to $241.3 million from $245.6 million. In the year, income rose 5.4 percent to $9.6 million, or 62 cents a diluted share, from $6.2 million, or 41 cents, last year. Sales fell by 1.2 percent to $713.2 million from $721.8 million. James Baireuther, vice chairman and chief administrative officer, said in a statement: “Although comparable-store sales declined slightly, we were able to control SG&A expenses, improve inventory turnover and offer our customers exceptional values.”
WILSONS WITHERS: Working its way back from the closure of its travel businesses, Wilsons The Leather Experts Inc. withstood an 89.4 percent drop in income for the fourth quarter ended Feb. 1 to $2.4 million, or 12 cents a diluted share, from $22.7 million, or $1.26, a year ago. The drop included a $27.4 million aftertax charge in connection with the disposal of the firm’s discontinued travel subsidiaries. Sales fell by 7.6 percent to $303.1 million from $327.9 million. For the year, losses widened to a whopping $80.9 million, or $4.03 a share, from $17.5 million, or 99 cents, last year. Sales dropped 4.5 percent to $571.5 million from $598.3 million. Joel Waller, chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement that, with the difficulties of 2002 now behind it, “our focus will be to strengthen our overall capital position, enhance the productivity of our existing store base and reduce our risk profile.” The company is renegotiating its credit agreement with lenders and focusing on ratio tests in the existing one.