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Specialty Retailers Feeling Economic Pinch on Earnings

For some specialty retailers, the news on the earnings front could have been better last week.

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For some specialty retailers, the news on the earnings front could have been better last week.

Internet retailer Bluefly Inc. widened its fourth-quarter loss due to an inventory write-off.

For the three months ended Dec. 31, the company posted a loss of $5.6 million, or 4 cents a share, from a loss of $3.5 million, or 3 cents, in the year-ago period. Sales for the quarter grew 9.7 percent to $29.7 million from $27.1 million.

For 2007, Bluefly reported a loss of $15.8 million, or 12 cents a share, compared with a loss of $12.2 million, or 23 cents, in 2006. Sales jumped 18.7 percent to $91.5 million from $77.1 million.

"The operational issues that we experienced as a result of our move to our new third-party distribution center coupled with the overall slowdown in the retail environment led to disappointing fourth-quarter results, especially after the strong first half we had in 2007," Melissa Payner, chief executive officer, said. She added that while the inventory write-off had a negative impact on gross margins during the quarter and for the year, "we believe that it better positions our business for 2008."

Although specialty retailer Citi Trends Inc. posted a 19.2 percent drop in fourth-quarter earnings from a year ago, it was still better than analysts had expected.

For the three months ended Feb. 2, earnings fell to $8.4 million, or 59 cents a diluted share, from $10.4 million, or 73 cents, in the same year-ago quarter. Analysts had expected a profit of 53 cents. Sales for the quarter increased 6.1 percent to $134.6 million from $126.8 million, while total same-store sales slumped 1.1 percent.

In fiscal 2007, earnings declined 33.4 percent to $14.2 million, or $1 a diluted share, from $21.4 million, or $1.51, a year ago. Sales rose 14.6 percent to $437.5 million from $381.9 million.

Lyn Rhoads Walther, senior analyst at Wachovia Capital Markets, said management has made a number of significant changes to turn around the business, including clearing excess inventory, planning more conservatively and installing surveillance cameras to reduce theft.

Charlotte Russe Holding, Inc. updated its second-quarter earnings guidance and outlook for the third quarter. The value-priced chain for young women said a tax benefit will boost second-quarter profits, bringing earnings in the range of 15 to 18 cents a diluted share. It previously predicted earnings per diluted share at between 12 and 15 cents.
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