Brown Beats Street

Brown Shoe Co. swung to a profit during the first quarter.

In the period ended May 1, the St. Louis-based firm said earnings were $10.5 million, or 23 cents a diluted share, versus a loss of $7.1 million, or 18 cents, a year ago. Adjusted for certain charges, the company’s earnings per share totaled 26 cents.

An 11 percent gain in net sales to $597.7 million from $538.7 million helped the company return to the black for the first three months of its fiscal 2010.

Brown’s top and bottom lines bested the estimates of analysts polled by Yahoo Finance, who had expected EPS of 13 cents on revenues of $582.9 million, on average.

The company’s Famous Footwear retail division saw a 14 percent increase in net sales in the quarter to $362.2 million, while comparable-store sales rose 15.5 percent. Revenues at Brown Shoe’s wholesale division climbed 4 percent to $174.7 million. The company said its overall gross margin increased 280 basis points to 41 percent of sales, driven by a 230 basis point gain in Famous Footwear’s margins. It credited the better performance at retail to more on-trend merchandise and less promotional activity.

“The sales performance was broad-based across our multichannel portfolio, with exceptional growth in our Famous Footwear, Naturalizer and contemporary fashion brands,” Ron Fromm, chairman and CEO at Brown Shoe, said in a written statement. “Moreover, our retail sales momentum has continued into the second quarter, and we see strengthening wholesale order placements due to improved sell-through, as well as retailers placing orders earlier and farther out as Far East factory capacity tightens.”

Brown Shoe expects an increase in the low- to mid-teens range for both its net sales and for Famous Footwear comps in the second quarter.

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