High-end housewares retailer Williams-Sonoma ( WSM) reported stronger fourth-quarter earnings Wednesday, beating expectations by a penny. It also offered first-quarter guidance that's slightly better than the consensus forecast.

The San Francisco-based company had net income of $102.1 million, or 85 cents a share, on $1 billion in revenue vs. $79.8 million, or 67 cents a share, on revenue of $859 million a year ago. The consensus estimate was 84 cents a share, according to Thomson One Analytics.

In the 13-week quarter ended Feb. 2, overall same-store sales rose 4.1%, led by a 7.9% gain in the outlet unit. Sales at the company's flagship chain and its Pottery Barn unit both rose more than 4%.

Net revenue, including shipping fees, increased 16.9% to $1.004 billion in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2003 vs. $859.0 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal year 2002. Retail net sales rose 12.2% to $625.1 during the period. Gross margin increased 10 basis points to 44.1%.

Williams-Sonoma said it expects earnings of 15 cents to 16 cents a share in the first quarter, ahead of the consensus forecast of 14 cents a share. For fiscal year 2004, the company expects to earn $1.52 to $1.56 a share. The consensus forecast is $1.53 per share.

Revenue is expected to rise to $3.10 billion to $3.173 billion in 2004, up from $2.754 billion in 2003. Analysts are forecasting revenue to grow to $3.15 billion. Same-store sales are expected to grow 2% to 4%. The company plans to add about 30 new stores.

Shares closed at $32.30 Wednesday.

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