By  on November 19, 2007

AnnTaylor Stores Corp. posted a 4 percent rise in third-quarter earnings, but slashed its full-year forecast because of economic uncertainty.

For the three months ended Nov. 3, earnings increased to $40.8 million, or 66 cents a diluted share, from $39.3 million, or 54 cents, in the year-ago period. The company said the growth in earnings is due partly to the benefit of its share repurchase program. Sales for the quarter climbed 6 percent to $600.9 million from $566.3 million last year, while total same-store sales fell 0.4 percent. By division, comps at Ann Taylor declined 4.4 percent and Loft dipped 0.3 percent.

For the nine-month period, earnings fell 14.4 percent to $103.9 million, or $1.61 a diluted share, from $121.5 million, or $1.67, in last year's period. Sales jumped 3.6 percent to reach $1.8 billion from $1.73 billion.

"Traffic trends were particularly soft in the month of October and notwithstanding the improvement we experienced in early November with the onset of cold weather, we have tempered our outlook somewhat for growth in the fourth quarter," Kay Krill, president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

The women's apparel retailer reduced its full-year earnings outlook to a range of $2.05 to $2.15 a diluted share, from a previous range of $2.15 to $2.25.

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