Fifth & Pacific Posts Q4 and Full-Year Profits

The company posted net income that more than tripled its year-ago quarterly profits.

Exterior of a Kate Spade store.

NEW YORK — Shares of Fifth & Pacific Cos. Inc. rose 12 percent on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday after the company posted gains in both net sales and net income for the fourth quarter and swung to the black for the full year.

This story first appeared in the February 26, 2014 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

For the three months ended Dec. 31, the company said net income more than tripled from a year ago to $185.2 million, or $1.48 a diluted share, from $57 million, or 47 cents. Net sales rose 22.3 percent to $426.9 million from $349.1 million.

For the full year, the company posted a profit of $73 million, or 59 cents a diluted share, against a loss of $74.5 million, or 68 cents, a year ago. Net sales rose 21.2 percent to $1.26 billion from $1.04 billion.

Shares of the company on Tuesday closed at $35.24.

William L. McComb, on his last conference call as chief executive officer of Fifth & Pacific, spoke briefly about the transition to Kate Spade & Co., and of Craig Leavitt taking on the ceo role, before reporting on results for the Kate Spade brand. McComb’s last day was Tuesday.

McComb said, “The fourth quarter was, overall, a very strong quarter for the company. Kate Spade posted total revenue of $256 million, reflecting a growth rate of 48 percent versus fourth-quarter 2012.” He also noted that direct-to-consumer comp sales were up 30 percent, with adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization for the Kate Spade brand up 48 percent to $64 million.

RELATED STORY: Kate Spade Gears Up for Growth >>

The company last year sold Juicy Couture and Lucky Brand Jeans. The Juicy sale to Authentic Brands Group for $195 million has closed, although Fifth & Pacific still handles some business operations for a brief period of time as part of the transition, while the sale of Lucky for $225 million to Leonard Green & Partners is expected to close before the end of March.

McComb disclosed that gross margins fell in the quarter, “down about 90 basis points versus 2012, driven by a higher promotion rate.”

Leavitt said, “We’ve heard many analysts asking whether or not the handbag and accessories markets are beginning to slow growthwise. The answer is no.…We saw nothing to buck that trend in the fourth quarter. In fact, handbags and small leather goods in Kate Spade gift accessories were our strongest growth categories this year overall and in the fourth quarter.”

He added that the top categories in the quarter after handbags were wallets, jewelry and apparel. In apparel, the top performers were outerwear, dresses and separates.

Leavitt said that last year the brand grew its “customer database by more than 55 percent and our social media following by a similar amount.” He noted that as the demographic breadth grows, about 60 percent of the base is under age 44. He also said that the company is committed to Kate Spade Saturday, which has a price point 50 percent below Kate Spade New York, because of its important reach to the Millennial customer.

In his closing comments, which included an extended quote from Charles Dickens about the best of times and the worst of times, McComb said, “So this call is literally my last activity here as the ceo of Fifth & Pacific Cos. Inc.…I’m leaving the company this afternoon, literally walking out the door shortly.…Not just as the former ceo but also as a shareholder, I am extremely excited about the future of this company. As Craig said, we’ve enjoyed explosive growth since 2007, but from my chair I see this business as having a relatively small footprint today with massive opportunity for expansion ahead in every region of the world.”

Analyst Ike Boruchow of Sterne Agee said of the Kate Spade brand’s performance, “This is a clear standout in today’s tough retail environment.”

RELATED CONTENT: WWD Earnings Tracker >>