Finish Line Sees Strong Start to 2011

Finish Line Inc. is enjoying momentum driven by online sales and a focus on keeping costs tight.

And the strong performance has continued into March. The retailer said comparable-store sales are up 10 percent in the first three weeks of the month.

As for the fourth quarter, Steve Schneider, Finish Line’s president and COO, said the firm’s 4 percent comps increase “was a big deal for us.”

“E-commerce revenue was up 37 percent for the quarter and 30 percent for the year, while we leveraged occupancy costs by 60 basis points and turned inventory 3.1 times, which is the highest in the company’s history,” said Schneider.

“We’re doing this all on sales of $317 per square foot, when our highest was more than $350 per square foot, so we definitely have opportunity to get more growth from our existing business,” he added.

Basketball also helped the retailer bounce to a strong finish for the year. The category was up double digits in the fourth quarter after comping positively for the first time in 2010 only in the third quarter, according to President and Chief Merchandising Officer Sam Sato.

“That momentum was driven by innovative product around design and technology. Jordan and Under Armour did really, really well,” said Sato, adding Nike’s lightweight running styles and Reebok’s ZigTech line never stopped flying off shelves.

For the period ended Feb. 26, the Indianapolis-based retailer earned a net income of $34.3 million, or 63 cents a share, an increase of 12 percent over $30.6 million, or 55 cents, in the same period a year ago. But the firm finished short of expectations, as analysts were looking for earnings per share of 65 cents, as polled by Yahoo Finance.

Revenue advanced 3 percent to $384.6 million on the back of a 4 percent increase in comp-store sales.

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