NEW YORK — Bernard Chaus Inc. continued to post improved earnings results despite lower revenues in the third quarter.

For the three months ended March 31, the firm’s net income jumped 19.4 percent to $2.1 million, or 7 cents a diluted share, from $1.8 million, or 6 cents, in the year-ago quarter. Gross profit and operating income also advanced at a double-digit pace, growing 11.3 percent to $10.4 million and 16.7 percent to $2.6 million, respectively. The firm trimmed 10.7 percent from costs of goods sold, to $30.6 million, but expanded selling, general and administrative expenses 9.7 percent, to $7.8 million, as it integrated its December acquisition of private label marketer S.L. Danielle.

Josephine Chaus, chairwoman and chief executive, noted in a statement thatgross margins had expanded to 25.3 percent of sales in the third quarter and to 26.3 percent for the nine months versus last year’s levels of 21.3 and 18.2 percent, respectively.

"Our focus for the fourth quarter is to continue our disciplined approach and deliver a profitable performance for the year," she said.

Top-line erosion persisted, however, as sales dropped 6 percent in the quarter to $41 million from $43.6 million in the year-ago period.

"Chaus’ improved profitability reflects our continued efforts to increase operating efficiencies, lower costs and reduce off-price sales," said Nick DiPaolo, vice chairman and chief operating officer, in a statement. "While this quarter included some expenses related to the integration of S.L. Danielle, we expect this business to provide a platform for future growth through expansion in the moderately priced private label marketplace."

In an interview, DiPaolo noted that the period marked Chaus’ fifth consecutive quarter of profit increases and that he saw further opportunities for improved margins and profits in the quarters ahead.

He was less optimistic about sales, however. "Our inventories are under control and we’re not taking big inventory risks," he said. "We’re not being speculative about going out and chasing businesses until the atmosphere at retail indicates that we can do that with a likelihood of success."

Specifically, the department store channel continues "to be very difficult," he said. "The Chaus business is holding its own against competitors, but it’s our private label offerings that are performing best there, and one of the reasons we acquired Danielle was for private label growth opportunities in the department store channel and within the specialty stores."The drop-off in sales occurred despite the inclusion, for the first time, of Danielle’s revenues for the entire quarter. Although Chaus doesn’t break down results separately, DiPaolo allowed that the acquisition "has already contributed somewhat to earnings and to the top line, but it will be reflected in a greater way during the fiscal year beginning in July.

For the nine months, Chaus sent $4.2 million, or 16 cents a diluted share, to the bottom line, reversing a $4.2 million lost in the comparable period last year. Sales dropped 5.6 percent to $106.7 million from $113 million in fiscal 2002.

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