Valentino Net Profits Jump 28.1%
MILAN — Valentino Fashion Group SpA posted a double-digit jump in first-quarter net profits on swifter sales of its Valentino and Hugo Boss brands.

Net profits for the three months ended March 31 rose 28.1 percent, to 41.5 million euros, or $49.8 million. Sales for the period advanced 13.5 percent, to 588.5 million euros, or $706.2 million.

All euro figures have been converted from dollars at average exchange rates for the period.

Valentino Fashion Group was formed when Marzotto SpA spun off its fashion assets into a new entity and listed it on the Milan Stock Exchange last July. Since the company didn’t exist in its current form in the first quarter of last year, 2005 comparative figures are pro forma.

Hermes Reports 8.8% Sales Increase
PARIS — A nose shy of its luxury peers, Hermès International said Thursday its first-quarter sales galloped ahead 11.3 percent to 361.5 million euros, or $435 million. At constant exchange rates, the increase stood at 8.8 percent.

While the results were in line with expectations, Hermès was held back by production glitches in ready-to-wear and watches, which resulted in flat sales in those categories for the three months ended March 31. A slim 4.1 percent rise for high-margin handbags and luggage also disappointed analysts. Hermès blamed the slim increase on the discontinuation of a canvas line, which was seen as a threat to its upscale image.

Bulgari First Quarter Sales Soar
MILAN — Growth of the jewelry and watch categories across all geographical markets helped boost Bulgari’s first-quarter performance and drove chief executive officer Francesco Trapani to express optimism and expectations of “an 8 to 9 percent growth” for the year.

Bulgari’s net profits in the first quarter rose 19 percent, to 18.2 million euros, or $21.8 million, compared with the same period in the previous year, as sales grew 13.6 percent, to 203.9 million euros, or $244.7 million. At constant exchange rates, sales would have grown 11.9 percent. All dollar figures are at the average exchange rate.

“The results achieved through this first quarter of the year in all product categories and in all countries make me optimistic also for the forthcoming months and confirm that we are going in the right direction,” said Trapani in a statement issued on Thursday. “In accordance with the guidance given to the market at the beginning of the year, in fact, I expect for 2006 — without extraordinary events — an 8 to 9 percent increase at comparable exchange rates for turnover and net profits.”

J.C. Penney Reports 22.1% First Quarter Profit Gain
NEW YORK — J.C. Penney Co. Inc. on Thursday posted a 22.1 percent jump in first-quarter profits.

Earnings for the three months ended April 29 were $210 million, or 89 cents a diluted share, compared with $172 million, or 63 cents, in the same year-ago quarter. The company beat Wall Street’s consensus estimates by 1 cent. The quarter included a charge related to the sale of its Eckerd business in July 2004. Excluding the charge, the company on a continuing operations basis earned 90 cents in the quarter.

Sales were $4.2 billion versus $4.1 billion a year ago, while comps rose 1.3 percent.

Urban Outfitters Posts Decline
NEW YORK — Urban Outfitters Inc. on Thursday said that first-quarter income fell by 26 percent, but the decline was due in part to heavy markdowns of seasonal merchandise and same-store sales declines at its Anthropologie and Urban Outfitters’ nameplates.

For the three months ended April 30, income was $20.3 million, or 12 cents a diluted share, compared with $27.4 million, or 16 cents, in the same year-ago quarter. Sales rose 16.7 percent to $270 million from $231.3 million. The cost of sales, which included certain distribution and occupancy costs, increased by 29.6 percent for the period to $173.2 million from $133.7 million. The company’s inventories grew by 24 percent on a year-over-year basis to stock new stores. So far, the retailer opened five new Urban stores, and three new Anthropologie sites. The company plans to open an additional 27 to 30 stores during the balance of the fiscal year.

For complete coverage, see tomorrow’s WWD.