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BLAIR BACK IN BLACK FOR 1ST QUARTER

NEW YORK — Cost-cutting helped Blair Corp. pull its first-quarter earnings back into positive territory.
Net income of $5.6 million, or 70 cents a share, for the period compared with year-ago losses of $232,000, or 3 cents. Year-ago results were deflated by a $2.5 million one-time pretax cost related to a voluntary separation program accompanying the rejiggering of Blair’s fulfillment operations. Without the charge, earnings for the most-recent quarter stood more than 350 percent above year-ago profits of $1.2 million, or 15 cents a share.
Sales for the quarter ended March 31 inched up 1.7 percent to $135.3 million from $133.1 million a year ago.
The Warren, Pa.-based direct marketer cut its operating costs by 10 percent to $64.8 million, while its provision for doubtful accounts slid 12 percent to $7.3 million, compared with a year ago.
“Future sales and profitability will continue to benefit from investments made to enhance our core businesses and growth initiatives, including Crossing Pointe and e-commerce,” said president and chief executive officer John Zawacki, in a statement.
In the quarter, Blair’s Internet-based sales surpassed $12 million, and the firm “is well positioned in 2002 to exceed the $35 million in e-commerce orders generated in all of 2001,” said Zawacki.
The ceo added: “We remained focused on becoming a $1 billion company before the end of the decade.”

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