Finish Line Sprints to Q4 Victory

A tight control on operational costs and a surge in demand for running and toning products helped Finish Line Inc. easily beat analyst expectations for its fourth quarter of fiscal 2010.

The firm has also gotten off to a strong start this year, with comps up 15.5 percent for the period from Feb. 28 to March 21.

For the fourth quarter ended Feb. 27, the company said earnings increased to $30.6 million, or 55 cents a diluted share, from a loss of $1.4 million, or 3 cents, for the year-ago period. Sales during the quarter increased 9 percent to $374.5 million, versus $344.1 million for the fourth fiscal quarter of 2009.

Excluding one-time items, Finish Line earned $33.3 million, or 61 cents.

Analysts surveyed by Yahoo Finance had expected earnings per share of 48 cents on sales of $347 million. Same-store sales rose 10 percent during the quarter, compared with a decline of 2.3 percent for the same quarter of last year.

Chief Merchandising Officer Sam Sato said toning products, as well as lightweight running styles from Nike and Puma, drove sales during the quarter.  “Running, which has historically been our strongest category — and certainly one of our largest — performed particularly well in both men’s and women’s,” he said.

While the company did not issue a guidance, CFO Ed Wilhelm said the company would stick to its strategy.  

“As good as our fourth-quarter sales were — being up 10 percent — our store traffic is still negative,” he said. “We’re continuing to assume that store traffic will be down. Having said that, we’re going to be focused on executing our strategy and making sure we have the right product in our stores.”

For the full year, the firm reported earnings of $50.8 million, or 92 cents, compared with $30.4 million, or 55 cents, for the prior year.

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