Taking Stock: Shoe Carnival Pops… Lanvin’s Investor…

SHOE CARNIVAL POPS: Shoe Carnival Inc. is benefiting from deal-minded consumers. The value-priced retailer posted a surprise jump in third-quarter profits last Thursday on a 13 percent increase in sales, thanks, in part, to solid sales of athletic footwear for the back-to-school season. The Evansville, Ind.-based retailer said it earned $7.5 million, or 59 cents a diluted share, up nearly threefold from $2.6 million, or 21 cents, the prior year. Analysts had expected a profit of 32 cents in the most recent quarter. Revenues rose to $191.5 million from $170.1 million last year, and same-store sales moved up 10.2 percent. “Our large selection of value-priced name-brand footwear resonated well with consumers, resulting in the highest third-quarter comparable-store sales gain in the company’s history. We experienced higher-than-expected sales of athletic product during the back-to-school season and very strong boot sales later in the quarter,” Mark Lemond, Shoe Carnival president and CEO, said in a written statement. “We are encouraged by our third-quarter momentum and entered the fourth quarter with inventories well positioned to capitalize on key fashion trends. We expect the early strength in boots, particularly women’s fashion boots, to continue into the holiday season. In addition, we anticipate continued strength in the athletic category, in part, due to the favorable consumer response to wellness footwear.”

LANVIN’S MINORITY INVESTOR: Lanvin is about to add more fuel to its global expansion drive. Footwear News learned last week that the French fashion house has sold a minority stake to an investor in exchange for a capital injection estimated in the tens of millions of euros. The identity of the investor could not immediately be learned, but it is understood to be a European family holding company with a long-term horizon and no exit strategy. It acquired a nearly 13 percent stake in Arpège SAS, the holding company for Lanvin. “The company is really healthy. We only need to accelerate,” said Thierry Andretta, the French fashion house’s EVP. “We will be looking worldwide for great opportunities.” He declined to name the investor, while characterizing it as being in sync with Lanvin’s “human scale” organization and familial management style. The proceeds will be used to help Lanvin expand its retail network and deepen its commercial footprint, leveraging the design prowess and buzz of its acclaimed creative director, Alber Elbaz, Andretta said. Finalized last Tuesday, the deal ends a long, under-the-radar quest by Lanvin’s majority owner, Shaw-Lan Wang, to find a silent partner willing to help her take the company to the next level in an industry increasingly dominated by giant players. Last year, sales at Lanvin rose 29 percent to 140.4 million euros, or $206.6 million at average exchange rates. The company recently said revenues would likely ebb slightly in 2009, but that it would resume its double-digit growth track next year. At present, Lanvin operates 19 company-owned boutiques and 21 franchises. — MILES SOCHA

PHOENIX SLOGS THROUGH: Though Phoenix Footwear Group Inc. posted a third-quarter profit, a black cloud of uncertainty hovered over the company. Phoenix, which has submitted a plan to regain compliance with the New York Stock Exchange after receiving a delisting notice in October, said last Monday that it earned $60,000, or 1 cent a share, in the third quarter, up from a loss of $2.1 million, or 26 cents, the prior year. An additional charge related to a divestiture of one of its businesses pulled down the quarter’s earnings more than previously expected, the company said. Revenues from continuing operations decreased 32 percent to $5.5 million. Phoenix said in a subsequent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it has been in default with Wells Fargo on a credit facility since September 2008 and that, since then, the firms have signed several forbearance agreements, the last of which defers to Nov. 30. Phoenix said it does not have enough cash to pay its bank debt in full and that it is in negotiations with several sources to refinance its credit line by Nov. 30. The filing said if Phoenix does not receive another forbearance agreement from Wells Fargo, the bank may foreclose on its assets, which would put into doubt the firm’s ability to continue as a going concern.

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