By  on November 18, 2004

NEW YORK — While third-quarter profits at Talbots slipped 20.7 percent, the results matched Wall Street’s expectations as the company saw sales rebound in the back half of the quarter.

In the period ended Oct. 30, Hingham, Mass.-based Talbots earned $27.6 million, or 50 cents a diluted share, including a $4.4 million tax benefit. That compared with a profit of $34.8 million, or 60 cents, last year. Total revenues rose 3.2 percent to $421.2 million.

“In September, the true start to our fall selling season, we experienced weakness in our regular-price sales trends, which we believe was due in part to a number of factors, including multiple hurricanes and a later Labor Day,” said Arnold Zetcher, chief executive officer of Talbots, in a statement Wednesday.

“In October, however, we saw a dramatic improvement in our trends, with regular-price comparable-store sales increasing in the midteen range.”

In the first three quarters of the fiscal year, earnings fell slightly to $80.4 million, or $1.42, from $82.7 million, or $1.43, last year. Revenues were up 4.8 percent, however, at $1.25 billion, from $1.19 billion last year.

In the fourth quarter, Talbots increased its holiday gift-giving assortment, but remains cautious, keeping its prior earnings-per-share guidance at 27 cents to 31 cents, versus the consensus estimate for 30 cents.

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