FINANCE

Mild winter contributes to strong quarter for Home Depot

BY Staff Writer

Atlanta — The Home Depot Inc.’s fiscal fourth-quarter earnings rose 32% to $774 million, compared with a profit of $587 million in the year-ago period. The retailer noted that mild weather throughout parts of the United States gave homeowners the chance to work on homes projects in the winter.

Sales rose 5.9% to $16.01 billion, topping the Street’s view of $15.51 billion. Same-store sales grew 5.7% overall, and 6.1% in the United States. The chain said it generated a 3.6% rise in fourth-quarter customer transactions and the average ticket increased 2.4% to $52.54.

We had a strong finish to 2011, and with favorable weather, our business delivered results that exceeded our expectations," CEO Frank Blake said in a statement.

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FINANCE

Barnes & Noble income down amid higher costs; same-store sales up

BY Marianne Wilson

New York City — Barnes & Noble reported that its net income for the 13 weeks ended Jan. 28 fell 14% to $52 million, compared with $60.6 million as rising costs offset higher sales for both physical and digital books. The company also said it will introduce a cheaper Nook Tablet, with eight gigabytes of memory for $199. (Its current device sells for $249.)

Revenue rose 5% to $2.44 billion. Revenue from Nook e-readers and its digital catalog rose 38% to $542 million. The company estimates it now has a 27% to 30% share of the U.S. e-book market.

Traditional book sales were up 4% in the quarter. Same-store sales increased 2.8%.

"In the third quarter, our traffic and sales in stores were the highest we’ve seen in five years," said Barnes & Noble CEO William Lynch said in a call with investors. "Our juvenile business and our toys and games department both drove significant double-digit increases, due in large part to the execution of our new merchandising strategies."

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FINANCE

Report: Belk investing in store remodels

BY Marianne Wilson

New York City — Belk plans to remodel almost 30 stores this year as the department store company focuses on upgrading its existing space, the Charlotteobserver.com reported.

Last year, Belk spent about $70 million on store remodels and renovations. In 2012, the chain plans to increase that slightly, to $75 million, and then spend up to $130 million a year in 2013 and 2014, according to the report.

"Stores, after time, tend to get tired," said Ralph Pitts, Belk’s executive VP, said in the report. "It’s important for us to have a store the customer feels good about, that represents our brand."

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