The Buckle Inc. continued to outperform its teen space competition in the fourth quarter, posting double-digit increases in profitability and sales which outpaced analysts’ expectations.

For the three months ended Jan. 28, net income rose 13.4 percent to $56.1 million, or $1.18 a diluted share, 4 cents above the consensus estimate of $1.14. Year-ago profits were $49.5 million, or $1.05.

Net sales advanced 11.2 percent to $337.1 million from $303.1 million as men’s sales rose 12 percent and women’s added 11 percent. Comparable-store sales were up 8 percent while online sales, not included in the comp figure, grew 30.9 percent to $27.6 million.

Although units per transaction were off 1 percent, average transaction value and average unit retail increased 7 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Gross margin declined 20 basis points to 47.4 percent of sales from 47.6 percent in the year-ago quarter.

In detailing quarterly results on a Thursday morning conference call, Thomas Heacock, treasurer and controller, said that the average price in men’s rose 6.5 percent to $59.90, despite a 0.5 percent decline in average denim price to $86.85. The average price in women’s rose 10.5 percent to $50.85. Denim expanded its share of overall sales to 50.5 percent from 47.5 percent in the final quarter of 2010.

Accessories sales fell 2 percent and footwear sales expanded 19 percent in the quarter, placing their share of sales at 8.5 percent and 4 percent, respectively.

In response to an analyst’s question about anticipated first-quarter performance, Dennis Nelson, president and chief executive officer of the Kearney, Neb.-based chain, said, “We would expect the average unit retail to be pretty similar to the fourth quarter, maybe down slightly as far as cost. We would expect the first half of the year probably to be, maybe slightly improved on the cost level, but fairly consistent with the first half of last year.”

Buckle, which currently has 431 stores in 43 states, expects to add 11 units this year, including three during the spring. Capital expenditures have been set for between $32 million and $36 million.

For the full year, net income grew 12.5 percent to $151.5 million, or $3.20 a diluted share, while sales rose 11.9 percent to $1.06 billion, topping the $1 billion mark for the first time. By contrast, 2006 sales were $530.1 billion. Comps moved up 8.4 percent as online sales were up 25 percent to $78 million. Sales per square foot rose 7.9 percent to $462 from $428.

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