FINANCIAL FLASH

Socked by a pretax charge of $2.7 million for the shuttering of 12 stores, Catherine’s Stores Corp. lost $2.5 million in the fourth quarter. The chain of 437 large-size women’s apparel stores earned $44,000 a year ago. Sales grew 6.1 percent to $67.8 million, but same-store sales slid 3.6 percent. Despite the weak results, the number of transactions in stores open at least one year climbed 7 percent. In 1995, profits plunged 44.4 percent to $3.1 million, or 40 cents a share, as sales rose 6.9 percent to $274.1 million. Same-store sales inched up 0.4 percent. Catherine’s also approved repurchase of up to $5 million of its common stock. There are 7.6 million shares outstanding. At Tuesday’s closing price of 8 1/2, $5 million would buy some 588,235 shares.

Earnings at Dollar General Corp. advanced 17.3 percent in the fourth quarter, but still fell a penny shy of Wall Street’s per-share estimate. The 2,416-unit discounter netted $38.5 million or 55 cents a share, as sales surged 18.7 percent to $575.4 million. Same-store sales gained 2 percent. For the full year, profits expanded 19.3 percent to $87.8 million, or $1.25 a share, as sales soared 21.8 percent to $1.76 billion. Comp-store sales rose 5.1 percent. Cal Turner Jr., chairman, said investments in distribution technology depressed 1995 results, but would fuel growth.

A new pricing strategy and weak consumer demand drove down earnings 72 percent in the fourth quarter at Fred’s Inc., the 201-unit discounter that agreed March 1 to merge with Rose’s Stores Inc. Earnings plunged to $784,000, or 8 cents a share, despite a 12.5 percent uptick in sales to $124 million. For the full year, earnings fell 67 percent to $2.7 million, or 29 cents a share. Sales grew 7.7 percent to $410 million. Rose’s, the 105-unit discounter, emerged from Chapter 11 a year ago.

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