Fewer markdowns and a focus on omnichannel growth propped up Chico’s FAS Inc.’s fourth-quarter earnings 25.6 percent, the women’s apparel retailer said Thursday.

This story first appeared in the March 1, 2013 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

For the period ended Feb. 2, the Fort Myers, Fla.-based chain earned $31.5 million, or 19 cents a diluted share, compared with year-ago earnings of $25.1 million, or 15 cents a share. Excluding costs related to its Boston Proper acquisition, earnings totaled 20 cents a share, which matched analysts’ predictions.


RELATED CONTENT: Click Here for More Earnings Coverage >>

Net sales rose 14.5 percent to $651.9 million from $569.2 million in the year ago quarter. Wall Street expected $665.6 million. By division, sales at Chico’s and Soma Intimates logged an 11.8 percent sales gain to $395.8 million, while White House|Black Market’s sales increased 21.2 percent to $226.3 million. Sales at Boston Proper rose 4.3 percent to $29.7 million.

Gross margin for the quarter increased to 53.2 percent of sales versus a year-ago margin of 52.3 percent. Comparable-store sales rose 3.7 percent for the period.

Chico’s said the results signified 15 consecutive quarters of comp-sales improvements and 16 consecutive quarters of double-digit earnings per share increases.

“We’re making strategic investments in 2013 to fuel our future growth including 125 to 135 new stores, but I’d like to highlight three things for you: omnichannel, Canadian expansion and our Boston Proper stores,” president and chief executive officer David F. Dyer said on the company earnings call. “Our omnichannel customers are our best customers; they spend 2.5 times more than our store-only customers and five times more than our online customers. The key to growing our omnichannel customer base is to provide compelling trend-right fashion to build meaningful relationships with our customers and to offer most amazing personal service wherever and whenever she shops with us. As I’ve stated many times before, we are channel agnostic at Chico’s FAS. The lines between store sales and online sales have become irrevocably blurred,” he said. “Today, we must evaluate our business holistically.”