NEW YORK — Women’s specialty retailer New York & Co. Inc. reported on Thursday that fourth-quarter earnings, fueled by strong holiday sales, rose 14.4 percent.

In the three months ended Jan. 28, the company earned $20.6 million, or 36 cents a diluted share, compared with $18 million, or 32 cents, a year ago. The earnings per share matched Wall Street analysts’ expectations.

Net sales rose 16.1 percent to $351.6 million, while same-store sales gained 9.6 percent.

Annual net profits came in at $58.5 million, or $1.02, more than tripling the previous year’s income of $17.4 million, or 33 cents. Net sales rose 8.7 percent to $1.13 billion.

“We attribute our success this [fourth] quarter to our compelling assortments and tactful marketing and promotions,” said Richard P. Crystal, chairman and chief executive officer of New York & Co., in a subsequent conference call with Wall Street. “We believe the significant rebound in our fourth-quarter results demonstrates the effectiveness of our regulatory strategy that allows us to quickly adopt our offerings to meet changes in consumer preferences.”

New York & Co., which acquired 14-store retail chain Jas­mineSola in July, opened 46 stores last year including 13 side-by-side apparel/accessories stores and a flagship here at 58th Street and Lexington Avenue. It plans to open 50 to 60 stores this year. Eight to 10 JasmineSola stores are planned to open in June and July.

Looking to the first quarter, the company said its sales performance has been soft so far, but that it has taken steps to improve it, including creating a brightly colored floor set. Strength already has been seen in wear-to-work and knitwear assortments.

Management reaffirmed a prior first-quarter EPS guidance for 20 cents to 23 cents, same-store sales are projected to fall 4 to 6 percent and net sales are seen in the range of $277 million to $282 million.

Analysts are expecting 22 cents in the first quarter on sales of $272.4 million.

This story first appeared in the March 17, 2006 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

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