NEW YORK — Marisa Christina Inc., with a strong focus in the better market, reported earnings rose 46.5 percent in the fourth quarter and climbed 69.7 percent in the year.
In the quarter ended Dec. 31, earnings for the better women’s sweater and children’s sportswear firm were $3.2 million, up from $2.2 million a year earlier. Earnings per share were 38 cents against 40 cents, reflecting an increase in shares outstanding from its July 1994 initial public offering.
Gross margins were 42.9 percent in the latest quarter, down slightly from 43.2 percent a year earlier.
Sales advanced 13.2 percent to $23.5 million from $20.8 million.
In the year, earnings climbed to $8.2 million, or $1.16 a share, from $4.8 million, or 87 cents, in 1993. Sales rose 33.8 percent to $76.2 million from $56.9 million, partly reflecting the acquisition of the Flapdoodles children’s wear line in June 1994.
“We feel we’re benefiting from a void of original merchandise in the better market,” said Michael Lerner, chairman and chief executive officer. “I think there’s a lot of sameness and people are looking for something new to buy.”
The core Marisa Christina handknit sweaters line and the Flapdoodles children’s and infants sportswear line were each up about 15 percent in the year, according to Lerner.
Lerner said the firm started selling its Marisa Christina line to Bloomingdale’s in the second half of 1994, and still sees room for growth at Federated Department Stores and Dillard Department Stores. Its core customers are The Talbots Inc., Nordstrom Inc., Lord & Taylor, Belks and Mercantile Stores Inc.
Lerner cited an “excellent” response to the company’s new lines, including Marisa Christina Knits, its suit line, and Studio Marisa Christina, a more casual knit-driven sportswear line. Backlog was up 28 percent at the end of the quarter.