NEW YORK — Profits at Claire’s Stores Inc. climbed 16.7 percent in the fourth quarter to $23 million, or 49 cents a share.
Last year, the accessories chain posted a $19.7 million profit, or 42 cents a share.
Sales in the latest quarter grew 20.7 percent to $144.4 million from $119.7 million.
In the full year ended Feb. 1, profits surged 46 percent to $45.1 million, or 95 cents, from $30.9 million, or 66 cents, a year ago.
Sales grew 27.6 percent to $440.2 million from $344.9 million.
Rowland Schaefer, chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement, “Fiscal 1997 was the most successful year in the history of Claire’s Stores.”
He noted that the Pembroke Pines, Fla.-based firm finished the year on an upswing and started fiscal 1998 without a slowdown.
“The first quarter of fiscal 1997 was extraordinarily successful for us, and we expect the first quarter of the new year to be even better and for our strong sales trends to continue throughout fiscal 1998,” Schaefer said.
He added that Claire’s balance sheet strengthened during the year with cash and cash equivalents over $90 million, allowing the chain to finance continued expansion, Schaefer said.
The company is also continuing “its aggressive search for appropriate acquisition candidates, both domestic and international,” he said.
Claire’s operates 1,547 women’s fashion accessories stores in 49 states, the Caribbean, Canada, Japan, England, Scotland and Wales.

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