Express Q4 Profit up 25% on Sales Lift

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Columbus, OH—Express Inc. said Wednesday that its fourth quarter profits rose buoyed by sales of expanded merchandise offerings with better margins.

For the quarter ended Jan. 28, Express reported a 25% increase in its net profit to $60.4 million, or 68 cents a share, compared to $48.4 million, or 55 cents a share, a year ago. Excluding one-time charges such as debt repayment, the specialty retailer’s adjusted income was 70 cents a share, ahead of analysts’ average forecast for 68 cents.

Net sales were up 8% to $673.2 million with comparable store sales up 5%.

The results beat analysts’ expectations and the company said it expects 2012 profit to be near the high end of Wall Street’s forecasts.

In the quarter ended Jan. 28, Express made $60.4 million, or 68 cents per share, compared to $48.4 million, or 55 cents per share, in the same period a year ago.

Total Sales were up $673.2 million, with comparable store sales up 5%.

Michael Weiss, ceo, credited the strong performance with additional merchandise, specifically, including accessories, such as watches, personal care and more footwear, as helping the earnings due to their higher margins.

Looking ahead, Express estimated that first quarter income would be in the 46 to 49 cents a share range with comparable store sales to increase in the “mid-single digits.”  Analysts’ average forecast expects 48 cents a share in the first quarter.

Express also said it plan to open five stores in  about 30 new stores this year, including  20 in the United States and about 10 in Canada. It also will close about a dozen stores in the United States, ending the year with roughly 627 locations.

For the full year of 2011, the company reported net income of $140.7 million, or $1.58 a share, up from $127.4 million, or $1.48 a share, in 2010.

Total sales were up 9% to $2.1 billion with comparable store sales up 6%.

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