By  on January 30, 2006

NEW YORK — Bebe Stores Inc. reported a slight increase in second-quarter earnings, which was partially caused by a tepid customer response to giftable merchandise during the holidays.

For the three months ended Dec. 31, the Brisbane, Calif.-based specialty retailer earned $25 million, or 27 cents a diluted share, compared with $24.3 million, or 26 cents, in the year-earlier period. Results in the most recent quarter included a stock-based compensation expense of 2 cents and a 1 cent expense related to the company's customer loyalty program. Analysts had been expecting a profit of 26 cents.

Net sales rose 10 percent to $167.9 million while same-store sales increased 2.2 percent.

Regarding its Bebe division, the company cited on a Thursday post-earnings conference call strength in outerwear, denim, sweaters and casual sportswear. That strength, however, was offset by negative same-store sales in accessories and tops.

"We also believe we missed an opportunity in gift-giving and accessories compared to last year," the company said.

Gross profits declined to 50.7 as a percent of sales from 51.3 last year. Bebe cited lower merchandise margins.

Year-to-date earnings rose 8.1 percent to $38.6 million, or 41 cents, which compares with $35.7 million, or 39 cents, in the prior year. Net sales were up 15 percent at $294.1 million.

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