By  on January 23, 2006

NEW YORK — Retail stocks lost ground during a down week for the broader market, which was hurt by mixed earnings reports from several large firms in the technology and financial sectors.

The WWD Composite Stock Index dropped 1.9 percent to 1,098.88, while the S&P 500 fell 2 percent to 1,261.49. The Dow Jones Industrial Average, which declined 2.7 percent in the week to 10,667.39, dropped 213.32 points, or 1.96 percent, on Friday alone.

As earnings season began in earnest for the broader market, Charlotte Russe Inc. kicked off for retailing on Thursday. The specialty retailer posted fiscal first-quarter net earnings that more than tripled as sales jumped 34.3 percent. But Charlotte Russe, which has been repositioning its Rampage brand, guided second- and third-quarter earnings per share below Wall Street expectations, including what could be a wider second-quarter loss compared with the prior-year period.

San Diego-based Charlotte Russe, which operates 356 namesake stores and 66 Rampage locations, also said it plans to open 35 Charlotte Russe stores this year.

Shares of the company ended the week at $15.47, down 43 cents, in New York Stock Exchange trading.

For the three months ended Dec. 24, net income increased to $7.1 million, or 29 cents a diluted share, beating analysts' estimates by a penny. The results included a pretax charge totaling 1 1/2 cents related to stock-based compensation expenses. Comparatively, the company had a profit of $2.2 million, or 9 cents, a year ago.

Sales came in at $201.5 million, also ahead of analysts' estimates of $197.7 million, while comparable-store sales spiked 15.6 percent. In the year-ago quarter, sales totaled $150 million. On an operating basis, earnings in the first quarter rose more than threefold to $11.4 million.

The company cited strength in accessories and apparel sales at its Charlotte Russe stores for the quarter's results. Mark Hoffman, chief executive officer, said in a statement that the retailer's Rampage business "continues to be a work in progress with its brand repositioning," despite posting double-digit same-store sales during the quarter.

Hoffman said companywide same-store sales during the first three weeks of January are up in the double digits. "We feel very confident about the fashion spring content and quality of our merchandise," he said.

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