"We are pleased to report an 11% sales increase for the fourth quarter of 2010," said Robert H. Spilman Jr., President and CEO. "While we do not believe that the overall pace of sales has improved significantly on an industry-wide basis, we are making progress on several fronts to grow our top line. This includes slight improvements in sales in our Company-owned retail fleet, the addition of new accounts outside our store network, and improved service levels on our imported products by virtue of our strategy to carry higher levels of inventory on our key items. The profit that we generated during the quarter resulted from a higher level of sales enhanced by an expense structure that has been aggressively trimmed for several quarters. We are very focused on doing everything that we can to generate future growth while continuing to monitor our operating expenses."
Net sales for the wholesale segment were $49.3 million for the fourth quarter of 2010 as compared to $44.8 million for the fourth quarter of 2009, an increase of 10.1%. This increase is due to a 5.6% improvement in wholesale orders as compared to the fourth quarter of 2009. Furthermore, shipments were increased to bring down existing backlogs that had built up in the second and third quarters of 2010 due to delays in receiving imported product from certain of the Company's overseas vendors. In an effort to mitigate the stock outages caused by these delays and improve service levels to customers, the Company has increased inventory levels during the second half of 2010. Approximately 55% of wholesale shipments during the fourth quarter of 2010 were imported products compared to approximately 50% for the fourth quarter of 2009. Gross margins for the wholesale segment were 31.0% for the fourth quarter of 2010 as compared to 32.5% for the fourth quarter of 2009. This decrease is primarily due to higher freight costs on imported product during the fourth quarter of 2010, while the fourth quarter of 2009 included a favorable adjustment to the last in, first out (LIFO) inventory valuation reserves due to inventory reductions in that year. Wholesale SG&A, excluding bad debt and notes receivable valuation charges, increased $1.3 million, or 12.1%, for the fourth quarter of 2010 as compared to 2009. As a percentage of net sales, SG&A increased 0.5 percentage points to 25.0% for the fourth quarter of 2010 as compared to 24.5% for the fourth quarter of 2009. The Company recorded $1.4 million of bad debt and notes receivable valuation charges for the fourth quarter of 2010, as compared with $2.2 million for the fourth quarter of 2009.