By  on April 6, 2010

Claire’s Stores Inc. reversed a year-ago loss heavily weighed down by impairment charges to report a fourth-quarter profit on sales that improved on both a net and same-store basis.

The firm also reported it’s enjoyed a high-single-digit increase in same-store sales in the first quarter, although the shift in the timing of Easter would likely bring the figure down before the period’s conclusion later this month.

For the three months ended Jan. 30, the Pembroke Pines, Fla.-based accessories retailer recorded net income of $19.5 million versus a year-ago loss of $569.5 million, which included $524 million in asset impairment expenses. Stripping out impairment, costs associated with its May 2007 acquisition by Apollo Management LP and other one-time items, Claire’s adjusted EBITDA was $93.4 million, 22.3 percent above the $76.4 million registered in the final quarter of fiscal 2008.

Sales increased 4.5 percent to $410.7 million from $393 million in the year-ago period. Comparable-store sales rose 2.1 percent, consisting of a 1.2 percent increase in North America and a 3.7 percent boost in Europe, where revenues are computed in local currency.

Eugene Kahn, chief executive officer, said on the company conference call that accessories had increased its share of revenues to 55.2 percent in North America during the quarter, a 490 basis point increase from the comparable 2008 period, and to 65.7 percent of sales in Europe, up 450 basis points.

For the full year, the net loss was reduced to $10.4 million from $643.6 million, while adjusted EBITDA grew 9.6 percent to $233.9 million from $213.3 million. Sales declined 5 percent to $1.34 billion from $1.41 billion and declined 1.7 percent on a comp basis.

On top of the 2,948 stores owned in North America and Europe at the end of 2009, Claire’s plans this year to open about 80 stores, the “vast majority” in Europe, according to Kahn. Capital expenditures will total $45 million to $50 million, about 60 percent of which will go to new stores and remodeling.

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