By  on April 3, 2008

Belk Inc.'s bottom line retreated more than 20 percent in the fourth quarter as sales saw a double-digit dip.

For the three months ended Feb. 2, the Charlotte, N.C.-based department store group reported net income of $85.6 million, 24.2 percent less than the year-ago level of $113 million. Sales contracted 12.3 percent to $1.23 billion from $1.41 billion in the final period of fiscal 2007.

"Consumer spending slowed significantly as customers faced economic conditions, including higher unemployment, rising energy costs and deterioration of the housing and credit markets," said Tim Belk, chairman and chief executive officer. "We responded to the reduced demand in the second half of the year by following a disciplined approach to inventory management, which allowed us to enter this year in an improved position."

Belk reported results for the full year. Fourth-quarter figures were derived by subtracting those provided for the first nine months of the fiscal year. Comparable-store sales results weren't available for the quarter.

For the full year, net income dropped 47.4 percent, to $95.7 million, and sales rose 3.8 percent to $3.82 billion. Comps fell 1.1 percent.

Belk, the largest privately held U.S. department store, releases financial results because of public debt. It operates 307 stores in 16 states and plans to open eight stores during the current fiscal year. Full integration of the Parisian stores acquired from Saks Inc. is expected during the fourth quarter.

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