NEW YORK — Belk Inc. overcame withering same-store and net sales to return to profitability in the third quarter.

For the three months ended Nov. 2, the Charlotte, N.C.-based department store company posted net income of $2.5 million. That compares with the $3.7 million net loss the company sustained in the prior-year quarter.

Excluding a change in accounting principle and other special items in both year’s quarters, earnings would have gained 56.3 percent to $5 million from $3.2 million.

Sales for the period dipped 1.9 percent to $496.9 million from $506.4 million last year, as comparable-store sales weakened 6.3 percent.

"We are pleased that we were able to achieve earnings growth and improved margin performance in the third quarter despite a challenging retail environment," said chief executive officer John Belk in a statement. "We saw some positive signs for sales during the latter part of the quarter, and we believe we are well positioned for the remainder of the year."

Overall, for the first nine months of the year, Belk reported net income soared more than fourfold, increasing 345.3 percent to $23.6 million from $5.3 million a year ago.

Excluding special charges and other items in both years’ periods, profits would have grown a still substantial but more modest 162.2 percent to $33.3 million from $12.7 million a year ago.

Sales for the nine months ticked up 1.2 percent to $1.52 billion from $1.51 billion last year, as same-store sales fell 2.2 percent.

Based in Charlotte, N.C., Belk operates 215 stores in 13 states, predominantly in the Southeast. Although private, it has public debt and has made its earnings and sales results public since 1998, when it reorganized into a single operating company.

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