By  on December 2, 2004

NEW YORK — The luxury machine that is Neiman Marcus Group Inc. continues to motor along.

Helped by increased full-price selling and a continuation of stringent inventory management, fiscal first-quarter earnings at Neiman’s rose 14 percent as revenues increased 10.9 percent

In the period ended Oct. 30, the Dallas-based company earned $64.1 million, or $1.30 a diluted share, including a $9.3 million loss on the sale of the company’s Chef’s Catalog net of taxes. Results in the latest quarter compared with a profit of $56.2 million, or $1.16, a year ago. 

Excluding the loss from the catalogue sale, profits would have risen 30.6 percent to $73.4 million, or $1.49. On that basis, analysts were expecting earnings of $1.45.

Total revenues rose 10.9 percent to $907.9 million. Comparable-store sales rose 11.4 percent, also excluding results from the catalogue. Neiman’s said this was its fifth consecutive quarter of double-digit comp-store sales gains. Comps at Neiman Marcus stores were up 10.6 percent.

By division, specialty stores, which include Bergdorf Goodman and Neiman Marcus stores, had sales of $737 million, up 10.8 percent from $665 million last year, while sales in the direct marketing unit were $140 million, up 9.4 percent. In the “other” unit, made up of the Kate Spade and Laura Mercier brands, sales were $31 million, an increase of 19.2 percent from a year ago.

President and chief executive officer Burt Tansky said on a post-earnings conference call with investors and analysts that customers continue to respond to luxury and fashion. Sales highlights in all divisions included women’s handbags, contemporary women’s sportswear, denim, women’s shoes, apparel and accessories, such as ponchos and fur-trimmed items. At Neiman Marcus Direct, sales were especially strong in jewelry, accessories and women’s apparel and shoes.

“Our outstanding performance is a result of our long-term strategy of focusing on full-price selling, aggressive management of our expenses and inventory, coupled with strong merchandise and innovative marketing,” Tansky said on the call.

Tansky noted that the company reached a sales-per-square-foot milestone of $541 in the last 12 months, while operating margins reached an all-time record of 13.8 percent, up 200 basis points from the first quarter last year.

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