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Chico’s FAS Keeps Rolling

NEW YORK — Women’s specialty retailer Chico’s FAS had another record quarter and full year and has plans to open more than 100 stores.<BR><BR>The Fort Myers, Fla.-based company on Wednesday reported double-digit percentage increases...

NEW YORK — Women’s specialty retailer Chico’s FAS had another record quarter and full year and has plans to open more than 100 stores.

The Fort Myers, Fla.-based company on Wednesday reported double-digit percentage increases in profits and sales in the fourth quarter, as revenues in the year surpassed the $1 billion mark for the first time and annual same-store sales rose in the double digits for the eighth consecutive year.

Earnings in the 13 weeks ended Jan. 29 were $33 million, or 18 cents a diluted share, compared with $25.6 million, or 14 cents, a year ago. Results in the quarter included a noncash charge of 2 cents to account for changes to store lease accounting. 

Excluding the charge, earnings per share met analysts’ profit estimates for 20 cents.

Quarterly revenues rose 32.5 percent to $285.6 million from $215.5 million. By division, Chico’s and Soma by Chico’s combined sales were up 27.1 percent at $231 million, while sales at White House|Black Market totaled $45 million, up 71.8 percent. Same-store sales were up 12.9 percent.

Scott Edmonds, chief executive officer of Chico’s, said on a conference call with analysts and investors that the company would open 110 to 120 new stores in 2005 and expand or relocate another 20 to 30. About 40 to 45 of the stores will be White House|Black Market stores and 65 to 70 will be under the Chico’s brand.

“As for Soma, we are pleased with the initial results as we continue to evaluate and develop our merchandise mix and customer acceptance,” Edmonds said. “Therefore, we plan to open up to six new Soma stores during fiscal 2005.” The company had opened its first 10 Soma stores, which carry intimate apparel, in 2004.

In full-year 2004, Chico’s earned $141.2 million, or 78 cents a diluted share, compared with $100.2 million, or 57 cents, in 2003. Adding back the 2 cent lease-change charge, earnings in 2004 met analysts’ estimates for 80 cents.

Annual revenues were $1.1 billion, versus $768.5 million in 2003, while same-store sales at company-owned locations rose 12.9 percent.

Separately, the company said February same-store sales increased 9.2 percent, while total sales in the month went up 24.2 percent to $83.5 million.

Chico’s owns 454 Chico’s stores, 25 Chico’s outlet stores, 163 White House|Black market stores, four White House|Black Market outlet stores and 10 Soma by Chico’s stores.