By  on December 9, 2005

NEW YORK — The Neiman Marcus Group continues its momentum despite its change of ownership.

The retailer reported a healthy first quarter ended Oct. 29, citing strength in contemporary sportswear, designer apparel and accessories, men's wear, denim and jewelry.

While there was a drop in net earnings to $55 million against $64.1 million in the year-ago period due to special items, adjusted operating earnings — which the company stressed was a more accurate barometer of its performance — rose to $140 million compared with $125 million in the year-ago quarter, representing a 12 percent rise.

Revenues for the quarter came to $976.4 million compared with $907.9 million in the year-ago period. Comparable-store sales rose 8.4 percent.

"We feel well positioned for the holiday season," said Burt Tansky, president and chief executive officer of The Neiman Marcus Group, during a conference call. "Our stores look great."

Neiman's did report a mediocre November comp sales gain of just 2.8 percent, but Tansky, in response to a question from an analyst, said: "We don't consider that a problem at this point. We have to see whether that continues." He noted that coat sales have not been robust.

The specialty store group consisting of Neiman Marcus and Bergdorf Goodman stores reported a rise in revenues to $807 million compared with $737 million in the year-ago period. Sales at the Neiman's stores rose 8.9 percent, while Bergdorf's cited a 13.7 percent gain.

Comp sales rose 8 percent for Neiman Marcus stores.

Earlier in the day, Neiman's stated: "Adjusted operating earnings is a more meaningful representation of the company's ongoing economic performance, and therefore, [the company] uses adjusted reporting internally to evaluate and manage the operations."

Stacie Shirley, vice president of finance and treasurer, explained in a phone interview that adjusted earnings exclude costs from the acquisition of the company by Texas Pacific Group and Warburg Pincus LLC last October (for $5.1 billion) and the sale of the Chef's catalogue in November 2004 to Pike's Peak Direct Marketing.

Acquisition costs were listed at $23.5 million plus valuation adjustments of $7.8 million and amortization of customer lists and lease commitments of $44.9 million. Due to the catalogue sale, Neiman's recorded a pretax loss of about $15.3 million in its first quarter of fiscal 2005.

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