By  on December 1, 2004

NEW YORK — Despite a sales scare from several summer hurricanes, women’s specialty retailer Chico’s FAS delivered robust sales and earnings.

The retailer said Tuesday that net income for the third quarter jumped 38.6 percent as revenues climbed 28.1 percent. Results in the nine-month period showed similar double-digit percentage gains.

In the three months ended Oct. 30, the company earned $37.1 million, or 41 cents a diluted share, compared with $26.8 million, or 30 cents, in the year-earlier period. Wall Street analysts had been calling for a profit of 38 cents. The company said its White House Black Market division, which it acquired last year for about $90 million, added 2 to 3 cents a share to quarterly earnings.

Total revenues increased 28.1 percent to $269.8 million, while same-store sales were up 6.1 percent at company-owned stores — a noticeable decrease from the company’s usual double-digit comp-store sales increases. Sales had struggled from the end of August into the beginning of September because of the hurricanes that hit stores on the East Coast, company executives said on a subsequent conference call with analysts and investors.

As previously reported, Fort Myers, Fla.-based Chico’s had first said on Sept. 9 that same-store sales in the first 10 days of September were down 2 percent due to hurricanes Charley and Frances, the first of which hit Florida on Aug. 13. On Tuesday’s conference call, the company confirmed that the total negative impact from the hurricanes was between 2 to 4 percent on a comp-store sales basis.

“As soon as Labor Day was done, we began to see improvement…which has happily continued through the third quarter,” said senior vice president Jim Frain on the call. Chico’s has over 70 stores in Florida.

“Both the Chico’s and White House Black Market brands saw strong increases in the number of transactions and both brands also saw improvement in merchandise margins for the quarter,” said chief executive officer Scott Edmonds in a statement. He said the company’s launch of 10 intimate apparel stores, called Soma by Chico’s, was completed in the third quarter.

“It’s too early to declare a victory, but we do see signs of a strong business [at Soma by Chico’s] for the future,” Edmonds said on the call.For the nine-month period, the company’s earnings rose 45 percent to $108.2 million, or $1.20, compared with $74.6 million, or 85 cents, a year ago. Total sales were up 41.3 percent at $781.3 million, while same-stores sales rose 13 percent.

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