By  on February 23, 2010

Strong holiday and international sales helped Blue Nile Inc. grab market share in the struggling jewelry sector, according to the company, which said it registered a 54.6 percent gain in fourth-quarter profits.For the period ended Jan. 3, the Seattle-based online jeweler said Thursday that net income expanded to $5.4 million, or 35 cents a diluted share, compared with a profit of $3.5 million, or 24 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. Quarterly revenues rose 20 percent to $102.9 million from $85.8 million a year earlier.Gross margin increased to 21.7 percent of sales, which was the company’s highest percentage achieved in the fourth quarter since 2005 and compares with year-ago gross margin of 20.6 percent. The company said the improvement was due mainly to progress made in diamond and jewelry costs.Eliminating the effect of a 14-week quarter in 2008, versus a 13-week quarter last year, sales increased 27.4 percent, while international sales grew 69.6 percent to a “record-level” $11.7 million. Excluding the impact from currency rates, sales grew 59.4 percent.Diane Irvine, president and chief executive officer, said, “At a time when many jewelers have closed their doors, we have executed with excellence for our customers, invested in our customer experience and generated strong profitability and cash flow.”For the first quarter, the jeweler said it anticipates earnings per share of between 14 cents and 16 cents on revenue ranging from $71.5 million to $75 million.

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