By  on February 23, 2010

Recovering from the downturn in luxury spending, Nordstrom Inc.’s fourth-quarter profits rose 152.9 percent and president Blake Nordstrom told Wall Street his company had made good use of the financial crisis.

“Our business is in a much stronger position now than it was going into the downturn that began roughly two years ago,” said Nordstrom on the company’s quarterly conference call. “But it was our focus on the customer that led us to major improvements in our business. It is because of our service commitment that we are better positioned financially, competitively and, most important, with our customers.”

The Seattle-based retailer has seen more regular-priced selling recently and projected continued growth this year, while acknowledging it would be harder to show improvement in the second half as comparisons get tougher.

Fourth-quarter net income rose to $172 million, or 77 cents a diluted share, from $68 million, or 31 cents, a year ago, when price promotions cut severely into the bottom line. Profits fell 2 cents shy of the 79 cents analysts anticipated.

Revenues for the quarter ended Jan. 30 increased 10.6 percent to $2.64 billion from $2.39 billion and rose 6.9 percent on a comparable-store basis.

Nordstrom’s stock rose 1.2 percent to $36.13 Monday, but the shares fell 4.8 percent immediately following the after-market report.

Executive vice president and chief financial officer Michael Koppel said the company has learned to be more disciplined in both inventory management and expenses. Fourth-quarter sales per square foot rose 6.7 percent even though inventory per square foot fell 4.1 percent.

The company’s credit card business continued to be tough, though Koppel said it was strategically important since cardholders visit Nordstrom stores twice as often and spend 20 percent more each visit.

“We continue to experience challenges in the consumer credit business,” he said. “Our delinquency rate in the fourth quarter was 5.3 percent, which is higher than our third-quarter rate of 4.9 percent. Write-off dollars in the fourth quarter increased $22 million year-over-year to a rate of 10.5 percent of average receivables, which was higher than our third-quarter rate.”

For the year, Nordstrom’s profits advanced 10 percent to $441 million, or $2.01 a diluted share, from $401 million, or $1.83, in fiscal 2008. Revenues inched up 0.6 percent to $8.63 billion from $8.57 billion on a comp decrease of 4.2 percent.

In the new fiscal year, Nordstrom projected earnings would rise to $2.35 to $2.55 a diluted share as comps climb between 2 percent and 4 percent. The earnings projection straddles the $2.41 Wall Street had penciled in.

The company, which operates 112 full-line stores and 69 Nordstrom Rack doors, plans to open three full-line stores this year and another 16 Rack outposts.

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