By and  on March 31, 2010

Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. continued its strong performance in the fourth quarter and Wall Street responded by driving up its stock to an all-time high.

Shares reached their high-water mark of $55.33 in intraday trading Wednesday before finishing ahead $3, or 5.8 percent, at $54.72. On a percentage basis, the gain was the greatest of any of the 172 U.S. and European stocks tracked by WWD.

For the three months ended Jan. 31, net income for the Hampstead, Md.-based retailer increased 16.6 percent to $35.5 million, or $1.91 a diluted share, 12 cents above the analyst consensus estimate of $1.79. In the prior-year quarter, profits totaled $30.4 million, or $1.66 a share.

Sales during the period grew 12.4 percent to $279.3 million from $248.5 million in the year-ago quarter. Comps were up 9.4 percent. Gross margin advanced to 60.7 percent of sales from 60.5 percent in the 2008 quarter.

In the year ended Jan. 31, profits increased 21.8 percent to $71.2 million, or $3.84 a diluted share, from $58.4 million, or $3.17, in 2008. Sales advanced 10.7 percent to $770.3 million from $695.9 million on a 6.3 percent comparable-store sales increase. Earnings per share came in 14 cents ahead of the $3.70 analysts expected.

“Our core strategy to provide our customers with high-quality men’s clothing at a great value and to actively promote this value through a diverse advertising and marketing campaign has again produced favorable results for fiscal year 2009,” said R. Neal Black, president and chief executive officer. “We have continued to be successful in expanding our market share, growing our profits and controlling our expenses, while further strengthening our balance sheet. Additionally, with this quarter’s results, we have achieved earnings growth in 33 of the past 34 quarters when compared to the respective prior year periods, including 15 quarters in a row.”

Black declined to comment further, saying the company will hold a conference call this morning to discuss the results.

According to the firm, suits continued to account for the lion’s share of the business, representing 30 percent of yearly sales, up from 28 percent last year. The company’s higher-end Signature and Signature Gold collections gained strength last year with sales up 20 percent, and now account for 25 percent of overall sales.

In a research report Wednesday, Margaret Whitfield of Sterne Agee raised her estimate for Jos. A. Bank’s fiscal 2010 EPS to $4.30 from $4.06 and projected fiscal 2011 would come in at $4.76, up from $4.50. She maintained her “buy” rating on the stock.

Jos. A. Bank, which operates 473 stores in 42 states, added 14 stores last year and expects to open 30 to 40 units in fiscal 2010. The majority of these will be located in core markets, the company said, but will also include “less mature markets such as Western states where it is developing a critical mass of stores to gain leverage.”

The retailer has a goal to operate 600 stores around the U.S., a number it had hoped to hit by fiscal 2012. “However, primarily as a result of the slowdown in store openings in fiscal year 2009, the company may reach the 600 store level subsequent to 2012,” according to the company.

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