NEW YORK — Propped up by its acquisition of Gerber Childrenswear that added to sales in the men’s division, Kellwood Co. was able to overcome slumping sales in women’s sportswear to produce profit gains in the third quarter.

Improving conditions at retail also prompted the firm to raise its full-year sales and earnings estimates.

For the three months ended Oct. 31, the St. Louis-based apparel titan posted a 51.4 percent leap in net income to $21.1 million, or 82 cents a diluted share. That compares with last year’s quarter when the company generated profits of $13.9 million, or 61 cents. Excluding expenses for realignment, Kellwood would have realized net income of $23.3 million, or 90 cents, in the most recent quarter. Wall Street had forecast earnings per share of 83 cents.

Included in net earnings was a "small amount" of profits from the June acquisition of Gerber Childrenswear that were more than offset for the previously reported aftertax realignment costs of $2.2 million, or 8 cents.

While sales were either flat or down in all channels, except the discount and national chain pipelines, overall sales grew 5.3 percent to $633.4 million from $601.4 million a year ago. By segment, women’s sportswear fell 2.3 percent to $394 million from $403.4 million last year, while men’s sportswear rose 12.3 percent to $123.4 million from fell 2.3 percent to $394 million from $403.4 million last year, while men’s sportswear rose 12.3 percent to $123.4 million from $109.9 million a year ago. Kellwood’s smallest segment, other soft goods, showed the best improvement with a 31.7 percent jump to $116 million from $88.1 million last year.

The acquisition of Gerber contributed $34 million to quarterly volume. Excluding those revenues, overall net sales were essentially flat, dropping 0.3 percent to $599.4 million.

"Comparable-store sales of apparel have been somewhat encouraging in recent weeks following a very disappointing back-to-school selling season," said chief executive officer Hal Upbin in a statement. "It appears that inventory levels of Kellwood’s brands at retail are in generally good shape. Our brands are enjoying good sell-throughs and are providing stores with better gross margin than last year. Therefore, based on the strength of the results achieved in the third quarter and continued improvement in Kellwood’s gross margin, we now expect that earnings for the year will come in ahead of the forecast given in August."Upbin said sales for the year are projected to be in the range of $2.2 billion, which was forecast in August, but that full-year earnings, excluding restructuring charges, should now be $50 million to $51 million. Previously, the company had anticipated full-year profits of $44 million to $48 million.

Gross margin gains also contributed to the earnings improvement, rising 230 basis points, and lower interest expense and intangible amortization charges likewise contributed to the bottom line.

Overall, for the first nine months of the year, Kellwood reported net income decreased 17.9 percent to $33.6 million, or $1.37 a diluted share. That compares with last year’s profits of $40.9 million, or $1.79. Excluding an aftertax provision of $8.5 million, or 35 cents, for business and facilities realignment, earnings would have been $42.1 million, or $1.72.

Sales for the period were also down, falling 8 percent to $1.67 billion from $1.81 billion a year ago.

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