Shoe Carnival Posts Q4 Profit

Aided by reduced markdowns and strong sales of boots and athletic footwear, Shoe Carnival Inc. reversed a year-ago fourth-quarter loss as improving conditions prompted the firm to project a higher-than-expected first-quarter profit.

In the three months ended Jan. 30, the Evansville, Ind.-based footwear retailer registered net income of $2.6 million, or 20 cents a diluted share, versus a year-ago loss of $3 million, or 24 cents. Sales expanded 8.8 percent, to $170.8 million from $156.9 million, and also were up 8.8 percent on a comparable-store basis. Gross margin rebounded to 28.7 percent of sales in the quarter from 24.7 percent in 2008.

“The momentum we realized in the second half of fiscal 2009 has continued into the beginning of the first quarter of fiscal 2010, and we are very optimistic about our outlook for the spring selling season,” Mark Lemond, president and CEO, said in a statement.

The company projected first-quarter earnings of between 54 cents and 58 cents a share, well above the 40 cents earlier expected by analysts.

For the full year, the 311-unit chain’s net income nearly tripled to $15.2 million, or $1.20 a diluted share, from $5.3 million, or 43 cents. Sales rose 5.4 percent to $682.4 million from $647.6 million as comps advanced 3.5 percent.

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