AGOA3 PASSES COMMITTEE: A measure to extend apparel duty-dropping benefits for the poorest sub-Saharan African countries cleared the House Ways and Means Committee Wednesday by a voice vote. The measure would extend through 2007 permission for 17 countries to use non-U.S. or non-African fabric in garments entering the U.S. duty free. The exception to the Africa Growth & Development Act of 2000 is set to expire in September. AGOA3, as the new measure is called, also would extend through 2015 the original preferential trade bill set to expire in 2008. No date for House floor action is scheduled, but AGOA3 has bipartisan support and is expected to be considered.
COSTS HIT BERNARD: Improved sales weren’t enough to overcome rising costs for Bernard Chaus in the third quarter. For the three months ended March 31, the New York-based designer saw earnings sink 13.8 percent to $1.8 million, or 6 cents a diluted share, compared with earnings of $2.1 million, or 7 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Sales for the period increased 6.7 percent to $43.7 million from $41 million. Selling, general and administrative expenses rose to $9.5 million, an increase of 280 basis points to 21.8 percent of sales. Comparatively, SG&A expenses came in at $7.8 million, or 19 percent of sales, in the year-ago quarter. For the nine-month period, earnings plunged 38.1 percent to $2.6 million, or 9 cents a share, from $4.2 million, or 14 cents a share. Sales rose 9.8 percent to $117.1 million from $106.7 million.
RETAIL PULLS J. JILL: A 60 percent increase in sales in its retail segment fueled first-quarter earnings for the J. Jill Group Inc. For the three months ended March 27, the Quincy, Mass.-based retailer said earnings zoomed 189.7 percent to $2.2 million, or 11 cents a diluted share, beating Wall Street’s consensus estimate of 4 cents. Comparatively, the company reported earnings of $768,000, or 4 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Sales for the quarter expanded 21.3 percent to $99.9 million from $82.4 million. Retail sales increased 60.1 percent to $50.2 million from $31.4 million.