C&B NET UP IN QUARTER, YEAR

NEW YORK — Successfully navigating choppy retail waters, moderately priced women’s apparel specialty retailer Christopher & Banks Corp. said Wednesday it recorded double-digit profit gains for both the fourth quarter and fiscal year.
For the 13-week period ended March 2, net income rose 21 percent to $10.3 million, or 39 cents a diluted share, compared to net income of $8.5 million, or 33 cents, for the corresponding 14-week prior-year period.
Net sales for the Minneapolis-based firm increased 22 percent to $82.8 million versus $68 million in the year-earlier quarter. On a comparable-store basis, sales rose 1 percent.
In announcing the chain’s 16th consecutive quarter of profit growth, Bill Prange, chairman and chief executive, said in a statement, “Despite the challenging retail environment, we achieved an increase in fourth-quarter merchandise margins. We believe this performance is indicative of the strength and increased awareness of the Christopher & Banks and C.J. Banks brands.”
He added that the firm’s strong performance “allows us to self-fund the opening of 82 new stores, the purchase of our headquarters and distribution center facility and the installation of new point-of-sale hardware and software for all of our stores. In addition, we retired the remaining $5.3 million of our long-term debt in December. All of this was accomplished while we increased our yearend cash balance from $34.8 million to $40.9 million.”
Looking ahead, Prange said C&B “remain[s] confident in our ability to execute our long-term strategy.” C&B, which currently operates 364 stores, plans to open an additional 90 in 2003.
For the 52-week fiscal year, income climbed 29 percent to $32.9 million, or $1.26 a diluted share, compared to income of $25.5 million, or $1, for the 53-week prior year. Net sales increased 32 percent to $275.9 million from $209.2 million in the prior period while comps rose 6 percent.

American Eagle $147
Abercrombie $158
Ann Taylor $167
Chico’s $208
Federated $149
Gap $114
Hot Topic $131
J.C. Penney $108
Kohl’s $159
Limited $171
May Co. $126
Saks $178
Target $152
TJX $127
Wal-Mart $144

Total $2,239
Initial Investment $1,500
Increase 49.3%
Net Gain $739

Rate of change taken from the comparison of closing prices on Sept. 17, 2001 and March 18, 2002.