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Dress Barn Backs Guidance

Fourth-quarter earnings rise 21%, while February comps are flat.

Women's apparel retailer

Dress Barn

(DBRN)

reported a 21% rise in second-quarter earnings and reiterated its forecast for the current year.

For the period ended Jan. 27, the Suffern, N.Y.-based company earned $17 million, or 24 cents a share, up from $14.1 million, or 21 cents a share, a year earlier. The most recent quarter includes a benefit of 3 cents a share from one-time tax items.

Sales increased 9% to $340.3 million.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial expected a profit of 24 cents a share on sales of $337 million. Wall Street forecasts typically exclude one-time items such as the tax gain.

Same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, increased 5%.

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"We are pleased to report our twelfth consecutive quarter with comparable store sales increases, and that we experienced another successful holiday selling season," said CEO David Jaffe in a statement. "Gross margins were impacted by more aggressive clearance of Fall and Winter merchandise in January, as a result our inventories are current as we head into the Spring selling season."

Jaffe said stores have transitioned to new spring merchandise slightly earlier this year and the company's had "strong reads" for the season.

"We are particularly encouraged by trends at our new and remodeled stores which are yielding better than planned sales results at both divisions," he said.

The company reiterated its forecast for earnings of $1.30 to $1.35 a share guidance for the fiscal year ending July 28. Wall Street is looking for a profit of $1.36 a share.

Separately, the company said February same-store sales were flat compared with a year ago. Total sales increased 3% to $79.7 million.

Broken down by brand, the dressbarn chain recorded a 1% decrease in comp sales, while maurices posted a 3% same-store sales rise.

The company operates 805 dressbarn stores in 45 states and 565 maurices stores in 41 states.

Dress Barn said also it will begin reporting consolidate sales and comp sales on a quarterly basis, rather than monthly, starting in the first quarter of fiscal 2008.

Shares recently were down 67 cents, or 3.2%, to $20.35 in after-hours trading.