By and  on March 30, 2010

Fourth-quarter results swung into the black at Oxford Industries Inc., owner of the Tommy Bahama and Ben Sherman brands, while sales continued to decline.

For the three months ended Jan. 30, the Atlanta-based company reported net income of $3.9 million, or 24 cents a share, against a loss of $288.4 million, or $18.19, in the same year-ago quarter. The numbers reported reflect a change in accounting principle connected with inventory valuation and new accounting guidance related to calculation of weighted average shares outstanding, the company said. The year-ago figures include pretax charges of $311.5 million covering goodwill impairment and other one-time items.

Sales fell 4.7 percent to $190.5 million from $199.9 million. Sales declined at all four of the firm’s business units, dropping 1.9 percent to $94.8 million at Tommy Bahama, 7.7 percent to $48.3 million at Oxford Apparel, 6.1 percent to $24.6 million at Ben Sherman and 8.7 percent to $22.3 million at Lanier Clothes.

The Oxford Apparel division produces branded and private label sportswear and golf apparel. Lanier Clothes makes tailored clothing under the owned Arnold Brant label and licensed Kenneth Cole and Geoffrey Beene labels, among others.

For fiscal year 2009, net income at Oxford Industries was $14.6 million, or 90 cents a share, against a loss, including impairment, of $271.5 million, or $17, in 2008. Sales fell 15.5 percent to $800.7 million from $947.5 million.

On a conference call with analysts, chairman and chief executive officer J. Hicks Lanier said Tommy Bahama would focus on expanding its retail and e-commerce businesses, as well as invest in international growth this year. Tommy Bahama is scheduled to open three stores this year, adding to its current base of 84 retail units. Another eight to 10 doors are planned for 2011.

Lanier also told analysts the company’s balance sheet and liquidity position are strong, putting it in a position to “entertain” acquisition possibilities. “We are allocating some of our time to the pursuit of that,” he said.

Last year, Ben Sherman exited its unprofitable women’s and kids’ businesses, licensing them to third parties, in order to focus management on the core men’s sportswear business. Those moves will lead to a 15 to 20 percent sales decline at Ben Sherman this year, but should “substantially” improve the brand’s bottom line, said management.

In fiscal 2010, the company expects diluted earnings per share to improve to between $1.40 and $1.50 on improved profitability at Tommy Bahama and Ben Sherman. Sales are forecast to decline to between $760 million and $775 million.

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