Byline: Jennifer L. Brady

NEW YORK — Reflecting retailers’ mounting infatuation with the moderate -price business, profits at Norton McNaughton Inc. gained 88 percent in the first quarter on a 14.6 percent rise in sales.
In the quarter ended Feb. 3, earnings jumped to $1.3 million, or 17 cents a share, from $710,000, or 12 cents on fewer shares a year ago. Sales grew to $34.6 million from $30.2 million. Sanford Greenberg, chairman and chief executive officer, said in a telephone interview, “The U.S. is moving toward moderate, and Norton is benefiting from the concentration on moderate resources.” He added that the company had a strong Christmas season and sales continue to do well at retail.
In a statement, Greenberg said, “Not only are we rapidly growing in the number of doors we are in with existing and new retail customers, but we are also picking up more floor space from retailers…”
He noted that the company had solid growth across-the-board in its lines, including Norton McNaughton, Norton McNaughton Petites, Maggie McNaughton, Mondiano, Pant-Her, and most recent, Kate McNaughton.
Marie J. de Lucia, analyst at Mabon Securities Corp., noted that Norton McNaughton’s quarter was “fantastic,” coming in well above her earnings estimate of 13 cents a share. In over-the-counter trading Tuesday, the firm’s stock rose 1/4 to close at 19.
De Lucia noted that Norton’s product is “right on and priced well.” She added that the company works well with retailers to get the product placed. De Lucia also attributed the strong performance to the high energy level of the management.
De Lucia said she expects continued strength for Norton and estimates per-share earnings of $1.60 this year, versus $1.22 last year. — Fairchild New Service