Gap Inc. managed to generate higher earnings for the first quarter, despite eroding sales.

The San Francisco-based operator of Gap, Old Navy and Banana Republic said earnings increased 40 percent to $249 million, or 34 cents a diluted share, compared with $178 million, or 22 cents a share, for the first quarter last year.

Earnings from continuing operations for the first quarter, excluding the shuttered Forth & Towne nameplate, were up 21 percent to $249 million, compared with $205 million in last year’s period.

First-quarter sales slipped 4.8 percent to $3.38 billion, compared with $3.55 billion last year. Comparable-store sales decreased 11 percent, compared with a decline of 4 percent in the first quarter of the prior year. Online sales increased 21 percent to $236 million, compared with $195 million for the first quarter of last year.

“We are pleased with our first-quarter results, as we delivered solid earnings growth in a difficult environment,” said Glenn Murphy, chairman and chief executive officer of Gap Inc.

For complete coverage, see Friday’s issue of WWD.

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