Last updated 5:09 P.M. EST

Nordstrom’s 1Q Profits and Sales Up
NEW YORK — Better control of expenses and improved inventory management along with high gross margin pushed Nordstrom Inc.’s profits up 25.6 percent on an 8 percent sales gain for the first quarter.

Net income for the quarter ended April 29 jumped to $131.2 million, or 48 cents a diluted share, from $104.5 million, or 38 cents, in the prior year on sales the climbed to $1.79 billion from $1.65 billion. Same-store sales showed a 5.4 percent gain for the quarter. The gross margin rate rose to 37.2 in the quarter, which compares to 36.8 percent last year.

“We are pleased to report the results of the first quarter which show steady progress toward our goal of both increasing same-store sales and improving operating efficiency,” said Blake Nordstrom, principal executive officer and president of the Seattle-based department store retailer, on a conference call to analysts. “By controlling expenses and leveraging above planned sales, our [selling, general and administrative] expense rate fell to 27.7 percent, which is the third consecutive year of reserve in the first quarter.”

Sears Sales Skyrocket
NEW YORK — Sears Holdings Corp. posted a profit in the first quarter, reversing a year-ago loss, on sales that soared 58 percent due to the inclusion of sales from its Sears stores.

Earnings also were bolstered by the company’s efforts to reduce expenses at both Kmart and Sears Domestic.

On Thursday the company reported first-quarter net income of $180 million, or $1.14 a diluted share, which is against a loss of $9 million, or 7 cents, in the same period last year. The increased earnings beat the average analyst estimate of 64 cents a share for the quarter.

Revenues rose to $12 billion from $7.6 billion during the same quarter last year. The company attributed the increase to the inclusion of Sears stores for the entire quarterly period ended April 29. The prior year’s numbers did not include Sears results for the whole period because the retailer was acquired by Kmart Holding Corp. on March 24, 2005.

New York & Co. Profits Weighed Down By Slow Sales
NEW YORK — New York & Co. Inc.’s first-quarter profits were pulled down by weaker sales and gross margin, but the company anticipates that better balanced merchandising efforts will attract shoppers.

The specialty retailer, based here, said Thursday that net income dropped to $6.1 million, or 10 cents a diluted share, from $21.5 million, or 38 cents, in the same period last year on sales that?declined 1.1 percent to $267.1 million from $270 million. Results were 1 cent shy of Wall Street analysts’ estimates, according to Thomson Financial.The gross margin rate declined to 29.6 from 36.4 in the previous year. Operating income during the quarter fell to $10.6 million from $37.4 million last year.

Hampshire Group Gains Marisa Christina
NEW YORK – Hampshire Group Ltd. said on Thursday that it inked an agreement to acquire Marisa Christina for $4.8 million.

Following the acquisition, which is expected to be completed before the end of May, Marisa Christina will be a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Hampshire Group. Shareholders will receive 65 cents per share, less a pro rata portion representing transaction costs.

“We are looking forward to the expansion of our women’s better market strategy through the acquisition of Marisa Christina,” said Ludwig Kuttner, Hampshire’s chairman and chief executive officer, in a statement.

For complete coverage, see tomorrow’s WWD.