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Checkout: Fred’s Flourishes … Stein Mart Surges … Venture Vacillates

<STRONG>FRED'S FLOURISHES:</STRONG> Fred's Inc., Memphis, Tenn., reported earnings rose 10 percent in the fourth quarter ended Jan. 29, to $2.9 million, or 31 cents a share, from $2.6 million, or 28 cents, a year earlier.<BR><BR>Sales in the quarter...

FRED’S FLOURISHES: Fred’s Inc., Memphis, Tenn., reported earnings rose 10 percent in the fourth quarter ended Jan. 29, to $2.9 million, or 31 cents a share, from $2.6 million, or 28 cents, a year earlier.

Sales in the quarter rose 8.5 percent, to $97.6 million from $90 million, with same-stores sales up 3.5 percent.

In the year, profits rose 19 percent, to $9.7 million, or $1.05 a share, from comparable earnings of $8.2 million, or 92 cents, before a special credit. After a credit of $16.9 million from accounting changes, the year-ago net was $25.1 million, or $2.83 a share.

Sales in the year advanced 9.9 percent, to $347.9 million from $316.5 million, and same-store sales gained 3.6 percent.

Fred’s operates 170 stores in the Southeast and expects to add 15 to 20 stores and to upgrade 15 to 20 others in 1994.

STEIN MART SURGES: Stein Mart reported earnings rose 13 percent in the fourth quarter and 19.8 percent in the year ended Dec. 31.

In the quarter, net earnings totaled $10.7 million, or 45 cents a share, against $9.5 million a year earlier. Year-ago per share earnings were not available because the company didn’t go public until April 1992. Sales in the quarter jumped 23.5 percent, to $124.4 million from $105.1 million, with flat comparable-store sales.

The company, which operates 67 stores, plans to open five new units by the end of June.

For the year, the company earned $16.7 million, or 70 cents a share, against $13.9 million. Sales surged 23.2 percent, to $342.7 million from $278.3 million, and same-store sales were up 2.3 percent.

VENTURE VACILLATES: Venture Stores, O’Fallon, Mo., reported fourth-quarter earnings dipped 4.7 percent, to $30.5 million, or $1.75 per share, from $32 million, or $1.86, in the quarter a year ago.

After preferred dividends, earnings available to common shareholders came to $29.8 million against $31.3 million.

Sales rose 12.8 percent, to $649.4 million from $575.5 million, while same-store sales inched up 1.3 percent.

For the year ending Jan. 29, before special items, profits declined 11.1 percent, to $43.9 million, or $2.43 a share, from $49.4 million, or $2.82, a year ago. But after a special charge of $2.1 million and an accounting gain of $10.3 million, Venture earned $51.8 million against $45.3 million.

February sales for the 104-unit chain rose 14.4 percent to $112.7 million from $98.4 million. Same-store sales for stores open at least 15 months climbed 2.2 percent.