By  on October 26, 2006

Bebe Stores Inc. said Wednesday that first-quarter earnings soared 57 percent, but the company reported a disappointing second-quarter sales forecast that sent shares tumbling in aftermarket trading.

For the three months ended Sept. 30, net income jumped to $20.4 million, or 22 cents a diluted share, from $13.6 million, or 14 cents a share during the same period last year. Sales were up 24.5 percent to $157.1 million from $126.2 million. Total company same-store sales increased 12.8 percent.

Gross margins increased to 50.5 percent, compared with 49.3 percent last year.

The women's apparel retailer attributed its strong margins to fewer markdowns and higher markups in the first quarter.

"For the second quarter, we are not currently anticipating this same leverage and look for similar margins to the prior year," Walter Parks, chief operating officer and chief financial officer said in a conference call with Wall Street analysts.

The company expects second-quarter earnings will range between 31 to 35 cents per share, and sales for stores open at least a year will be in the high single-digit range.

Bebe's shares fell $3.99, or 14.92 percent, to $22.75 in aftermarket trading from a Nasdaq close of $26.74.

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