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Conn’s has convincing Q4; plans 15-20 stores

BY Dan Berthiaume

The Woodlands, Texas – Conn’s Inc. reported net income of $27.73 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2014, up 57% from $17.66 million in the same quarter the prior fiscal year. The retailer intends to open 15 to 20 new stores during fiscal 2015.

Net sales grew 45% to $301.63 million from $250.34 million, and same-store sales increase 33.4%. Conn’s said significant sales growth was reported across all major product categories during the quarter, and the company opened six new stores in that time.

During the full fiscal year, net income soared 78% to %93.45 million and total net sales increased 39% to $991.84 million from $714.26 million, while same-store sales grew 26.5%. Significant gross margin expansion positively affected Conn’s net income results.

“Our business model demonstrated its strength and resilience despite the challenges from portfolio growth and weather in our credit operation in the fourth quarter,” said Theodore M. Wright, chairman and CEO of Conn’s.

During fiscal 2015, same-store sales are expected to grow 5%-10%.

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Signet Jewelers has solid Q4

BY Dan Berthiaume

Hamilton, Bermuda – Net income at Signet Jewelers grew 2% to $175.2 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2014, compared to $171.8 million in the fourth quarter of the preceding fiscal year. Net sales increased 3% to $1.56 billion from $1.51 billion and same-store sales increased 4%.

During the full fiscal year, net income grew 2% to $368 million from $359.9 million and net sales improved 3% to $4.21 billion from $3.98 billion. Same-store sales rose 4%.

“I would like to thank all Signet associates for their contribution to these results,” said Mike Barnes, CEO of Signet. “In addition, and importantly, in February we negotiated and executed an agreement to acquire the Zale Corporation, which will transform the combined companies after the transaction is closed. The Zale team has done a great job turning its business around, and we are excited about the opportunities of helping to take Zale to the next level."

Signet expects same-store sales in the first quarter of fiscal 2015 to grow 3%-4%.

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Fred’s net income falls in Q4

BY Dan Berthiaume

Memphis, Tenn. – Fred’s Inc. reported a substantial 34.5% decrease in its net income during the fourth quarter of fiscal 2013, to $5.56 million from $8.49 million in the same quarter a year earlier. Net sales declined 7.2% to $495 million from $533.4 million, and same-store sales grew 0.1%.

Fred’s cited the impact of favorable tax credits and a 53rd week in fiscal 2012 as affecting its net income results. In addition, Fred’s attributed some of its net sales decline to severe weather, higher-than-normal utility bills, and rising generic drug costs.

"Our company’s performance in the fourth quarter reflected all the difficulties that have been cited throughout the retail sector recently as we dealt with the unusually harsh weather of the past several months and a significant 24% increase in the cost of generic drugs, which reduced gross margin by 100 basis points in our pharmacy department,” said Bruce A. Efird, CEO of Fred’s. “Operationally, we achieved earnings of $0.17 per share for the quarter.”

During the full fiscal year, Fred’s net income fell 12% to $26 million from $29.6 million and net sales dropped 0.8% to $1.94 million from $1.95 million.

Looking ahead, total sales for first quarter 2014 are expected to be flat to up 2%. Same-store sales for the first quarter are expected to be flat to down 2% reflecting poor weather conditions and weather-related store closings that have affected Lawn & Garden and other seasonal merchandise.

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