WILSONS POSTS SOLID FOURTH QUARTER

NEW YORK — Wilsons The Leather Experts said it expects to keep its double-digit momentum going in 2001.
In the fourth quarter, net income was ahead 17.9 percent and sales were up 20.2 percent.
The leather retailer said net income for the quarter ended Feb. 3 improved to $61.1 million, or $3.51 a share, compared to $51.8 million, or $2.98, while sales reached $381.5 million from $317.3 million in the previous period. Comparable-store sales increased 3.5 percent.
Joel Waller, chairman and chief executive, said in a statement that results are attributable to “the broad-based strength inherent in our divisions and merchandise categories, which clearly reflects the success of our multiple business segment and market penetration strategy.”
The company increased gross margins by 160 basis points, to 38.9 percent of sales from 37.3 percent, a direct result of its private label brand strategy and an increase in full-price sell-throughs, especially in women’s, the firm said.
Looking ahead, Waller said he expects to achieve at least a 20 percent increase in both sales and earnings results. He said Wilsons would focus on its business diversification and retail expansion strategy, with plans to open more than 80 new stores, net of closings, in the coming year, primarily with its outlet and El Porto division, which could help drive more year-round sales and profits.
For the year, the Minneapolis-based chain reported earnings increased 28.7 percent, to $42.5 million, or $2.45 a share, compared to $33.1 million, or $1.94, a year ago. Sales increased 17.2 percent, to $636.9 million from $543.6 million, and comparable sales rose 4.1 percent.