Helen of Troy Misses Estimate

Gross margin slides.
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Sales and earnings fell in

Helen of Troy's

(HELE) - Get Report

third quarter and the personal-care products maker guided current-period estimates lower.

El Paso, Texas-based Helen earned $22.7 million, or 72 cents a share, in the quarter, down 27.2% from $31.1 million, or 97 cents a share, a year ago. Sales fell 4% to $197.5 million. Analysts had been expecting 77 cents a share on sales of $187.9 million for the latest quarter.

Earnings fell because of the lower sales and a 4.4-percentage-point decrease in third-quarter gross margin to 43.6%. "We continue to evaluate and take corrective actions to make up for sales declines," Helen says. "We have adjusted our product mix, pricing and marketing programs in order to maintain, and in some cases, acquire more retail shelf space."

The company expects to earn 15 cents to 25 cents a share on sales of $120 million to $130 million in the current fourth quarter. Analysts were forecasting earnings of 36 cents a share on sales of $127.1 million.

"Next fiscal year, beginning March 1, 2006, we are anticipating an $8 million to $10 million savings in SG&A expenses, primarily in warehouse, distribution and freight expense, and an increase in product placements with retailers, and should therefore see a more positive year-over-year comparison of operating results," the company says.