By  on March 11, 2002

NEW YORK -- Reflecting the difficult environment for department stores in the fourth quarter, Gottschalks registered flat earnings while those at Bon-Ton Stores declined.

At Gottschalks, based in Fresno, Calif., net income for the three months ended Feb. 2 was $10.4 million, or 82 cents, essentially flat with last year's $10.38 million, or 82 cents. Total revenues were down 7.1 percent to $244.6 million from $263.4 million. Comparable-store sales declined 1.1 percent.

For the year, income broke even at $425,000, or 3 cents, compared with $7.1 million, or 56 cents, in the year-ago period. Revenues rose 6.8 percent to $723.2 million from $677 million.

Jim Famalette, president and chief executive officer, noted comp-store inventories were 12 percent below those of a year earlier. The company expects comps for the first quarter of fiscal 2002 to be equal to last year's first quarter, and anticipates a first-quarter loss in the range of 25 cents to 30 cents a share. It said that it "traditionally experiences a loss in the first quarter." Earnings per share for the year are projected at between 45 and 55 cents.

York, Pa.-based Bon-Ton Stores Inc. posted declines in earnings, sales and same-store sales for the fourth quarter and year.

For the three months, net income fell 13.3 percent to $14.8 million, or 97 cents a share, from $17.1 million, or $1.13, in the year-ago quarter. Sales dropped 7.9 percent, to $245.6 million from $266.4 million, as comps decreased 4.8 percent.

James H. Baireuther, vice chairman and chief administrative officer, said that, even with comp decreases, fourth-quarter results met expectations. He added the "Best of Bon-Ton" proprietary credit card loyalty program had led to an increase of 4 percentage points in the ratio of credit card sales to total sales. Moreover, Madison & Max, the new Bon-Ton private label line that is designed and sourced by Federated Merchandising Group, is helping the company differentiate itself from competitors in certain markets, Baireuther said.

For the year, income fell 17.5 percent to $6.2 million, or 41 cents, from $7.5 million, or 50 cents, in the prior year. Revenues dipped 3.8 percent to $725.3 million from $752.5 million, with sales also declining 3.8 percent to $721.8 million from $749.8 million. Comps for the year were down 3.3 percent.

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