MELVILLE NET CLIMBS 24.6% IN 3RD PERIOD

NEW YORK--Melville Corp. reported third-quarter earnings jumped 24.6 percent to $51.7 million, or 45 cents a share, from $41.5 million, or 35 cents, a year ago.
In the quarter ended Oct. 1, sales rose 16.2 percent to $2.7 billion from $2.4 billion. Total same-store sales were up 2.8 percent. However, same-store sales declined at Marshalls and at Wilsons, 3.2 percent and 10.4 percent, respectively. Overall gross margins slipped to 35.3 percent from 36.2 percent. Stanley P. Goldstein, chairman and chief executive officer, said, "Melville's overall third-quarter performance--although above the year earlier--was mixed, especially given the six extra selling days during the period." Toys and furnishings were strong and footwear improved. Apparel sales continued to suffer from weak demand, he said. He added that there were some early signs of strength in several of Melville's business areas in the fourth quarter.
Linda Morris, of PNC Bank, said apparel is still a concern for Melville. "Marshalls had a tough quarter, but there seems to be some firming in October."
In the nine months, earnings were flat at $94.8 million, or $1.14, against $94.3 million, or $1.14. Sales rose 10.1 percent to $7.6 billion from $6.9 billion. Same-store sales rose 3.2 percent. Melville rose 1 1/4 to 34 1/8 Tuesday on the New York Stock Exchange.--Fairchild News Service

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