Byline: Dan Burrows

NEW YORK — The Elder-Beerman Stores Corp. saw net income climb in the final quarter and full year, even as sales declined.
For the 13-week fourth quarter ended Feb. 2, the company reported a 13.8 percent increase in net earnings to $9.7 million, or 84 cents a diluted share, compared with $8.5 million, or 75 cents, in the 14-week year-ago period.
The Dayton, Ohio-based department store company reported total revenues slipped 4.2 percent to $227.8 million from $237.7 in last year’s fourth quarter. Net sales fell 3.9 percent to $219.6 million from $228.6 million as same-store sales dropped 4.2 percent.
Fourth-quarter results included pretax charges of $600,000 related to the retirement of former chief executive officer Frederick Mershad and the subsequent ceo search, as well as a $200,000 adjustment to third-quarter charges related to the divestiture of Shoebilee. Excluding these items and applying an income tax rate of 36 percent, Elder-Beerman would have reported net income of $10.2 million, or 89 cents.
“Given the difficult year, we are pleased with our performance,” said chief financial officer Scott Davido in a conference call with analysts. “We did achieve all of our expense-reduction initiatives. We managed our cash well. We brought our average debt levels down at yearend by $17.1 million, or 10 percent of our long-term borrowings. And we improved management of our inventory.”
Overall, in 52-week fiscal 2001, Elder-Beerman reported a net loss of $920,000, or 8 cents a diluted share, compared with a loss of $6.7 million, or 50 cents, in 53-week fiscal 2000. Total revenues dipped 2.1 percent to $673.5 million from $687.6 million last year. Sales slipped 2 percent to $643.1 million from $656.2 million as comparable-store sales fell 3.6 percent.
Full-year results included pretax charges of $3.3 million relating to Mershad’s retirement and the ceo search, a $4.3 million pretax charge for Shoebilee and a $600,000 pretax recovery related to an investment in a cooperative buying group. Excluding those charges, Elder-Beerman would have posted net income of $3.8 million, or 33 cents, for fiscal 2001.

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