Brown Shoe Posts Loss in Q4

NEW YORK — Dragged down by restructuring and impairment charges and a double-digit drop in wholesale revenues, Brown Shoe Co. Inc. reported a fourth-quarter loss of more than $150 million on Wednesday but still beat Wall Street expectations.

For the three months ended Jan. 31, the St. Louis-based footwear firm recorded a loss of $153 million, or $3.68 a diluted share, compared to profits of $14 million, or 33 cents a share, last year. Excluding impairment, restructuring and other charges that totaled $141.5 million, the company’s quarterly loss was 28 cents per share, 9 cents better than the analyst consensus estimate of 37 cents.

Sales in the quarter fell 8.8 percent to $521 million from $571.4 million a year ago. Wholesale revenues declined 25.1 percent to $142.7 million. Despite being pinched by a 3.6 percent drop in same-store sales, Famous Footwear saw revenues increase 0.5 percent to $312.3 million. Same-store sales were off 0.3 percent in the specialty retail segment, dominated by Naturalizer shoe stores, as segment revenues fell 5.9 percent to $66 million.

“The fourth quarter marked one of our most challenging periods in our company’s 130-year history,” said chairman and chief executive officer Ronald Fromm on a conference call with analysts. “The continuation of the economic uncertainties and credit crisis drove a dramatic increase in the promotional activity of retailers throughout the quarter, which had a detrimental effect on our sales and profitability.”

Due to what it called a “lack of sufficient visibility,” the company declined to give quarterly or yearly earnings guidance for the upcoming year. It did say that based on current conditions and outlook, it expects sales for the year in a range of $2.2 billion to $2.3 billion.

For fiscal 2008 the company reported a loss of $133.2 million, or $3.21 a share, versus earnings of $60.4 million, or $1.37 a share, a year ago. Sales in the 12 months fell 3.5 percent to $2.28 billion from $2.36 billion.

Shares of Brown Shoe climbed 8 cents, or 2.5 percent, in trading after the announcement, to close the day at $3.25.

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