And with that said, I'll turn the call over to Bob.
Robert N. Fisch
Thank you, Stacy. Good afternoon, everyone, and welcome to our fourth quarter and year-end 2011 earnings conference call. I want to spend a few moments giving you an overview of our 2011 results, and then focus on the majority of my comments looking forward to 2012 and our priorities to deliver future growth. Then Kim will give you some insight into our merchandise strategies, and Keith will finish up with the financial results and outlook.
So to start, with a quick look back to the fourth quarter, we were very pleased to have produced net sales growth of approximately 16%, net income growth of almost 19% and earnings per share at $0.52, above our previously stated guidance, despite the warm weather and economic conditions that caused this to be an extremely promotional season for retail. To reiterate what I discussed at the ICR retail conference, from Thanksgiving through the first week of January, we achieved low single-digit comp sales despite industry pressures and unfavorable weather.We trended up during the biggest volume period of the year by relying on our strong fashion offerings, combined with focused sales on key items to drive the business rather than sacrificing our margins by promoting too aggressively. We did see tough comp sales the last two weekends of January, which was primarily due to unseasonably warm weather across the country, which did rebound in February, which I will be discussing a little later. The metric we are most proud of this quarter, though, was the 70 basis point increase in merchandise margin during a season when many other retailers experienced significant margin erosion. And certainly, one of the biggest accomplishments in fiscal 2011 was an increased gross margin and merchandise margin in every quarter of the year. We held the line and did not overreact when much of the industry was promoting their entire store.
Select the service that is right for you!COMPARE ALL SERVICES
Jim Cramer and Stephanie Link actively manage a real portfolio and reveal their money management tactics while giving advanced notice before every trade.
- $2.5+ million portfolio
- Large-cap and dividend focus
- Intraday trade alerts from Cramer
- Weekly roundups
Access the tool that DOMINATES the Russell 2000 and the S&P 500.
- Buy, hold, or sell recommendations for over 4,300 stocks
- Unlimited research reports on your favorite stocks
- A custom stock screener
- Upgrade/downgrade alerts
Jim Cramer's protege, David Peltier, identifies the best of breed dividend stocks that will pay a reliable AND significant income stream.
- Diversified model portfolio of dividend stocks
- Alerts when market news affect the portfolio
- Bi-weekly updates with exact steps to take - BUY, HOLD, SELL
All of Real Money, plus 15 more of Wall Street's sharpest minds delivering actionable trading ideas, a comprehensive look at the market, and fundamental and technical analysis.
- Real Money + Doug Kass Plus 15 more Wall Street Pros
- Intraday commentary & news
- Ultra-actionable trading ideas
Our options trading pros provide daily market commentary and over 100 monthly option trading ideas and strategies to help you become a well-seasoned trader.
- 100+ monthly options trading ideas
- Actionable options commentary & news
- Real-time trading community
- Options TV