Seattle—Nordstrom Inc. reported Thursday that its fourth quarter profit edged up as comparable store sales improved. But its 2012 forecast was called “timid” by some on Wall Street.
For the quarter ended Jan. 28, the retailer said its net income rose 1.7% to $236 million, or $1.11 a share, compared with $232 million, or $1.04 a share, a year ago.
Total net sales rose to $3.27 billion, up from $2.82 billion in the prior year period. Comparable store sales jumped 7.1%. Gross margin edged down to 39.6% from 39.7%
The results beat analysts’ average estimate for earnings of $1.09 a share on revenue of $3.17 billion.
Handbags Among Top Sellers
By division, sales at its namesake Nordstrom stores increased 9.8% to $232 million. Comparable stores sales also increased, up 8.4%. Top-performing merchandise categories included handbags, designer and cosmetics. The South and Midwest regions were the top-performing geographic areas for full-line stores. Nordstrom direct, which include online sales, posted a 35% quarter-over-quarter sales growth.
Nordstrom Rack saw its sales increase 17.7% to $85 million, with comparable store sales up 2.2%.
The company said its retail selling, general and administrative expenses increased $121 million compared to fourth quarter 2010. The increase was primarily attributable to various “customer facing e-commerce initiatives,” including HauteLook, its flash sale site, and sales growth in both existing and new stores.
For its fiscal 2012, Nordstrom said it expects comparable store sales of 4% to 6% with earnings in the range of $3.30 to $3.45 a share. However, analysts’ average estimate expects a much higher per share return— $3.59 a share.