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Brown Shoe Slips in Q4, Beats Estimates

Brown Shoe is banking on its stable of new brands to bring it back into the black this year.

By
with contributions from Matthew Lynch

NEW YORK — Brown Shoe is banking on its stable of new brands to bring it back into the black this year. Dragged down by restructuring and impairment charges and a double-digit drop in wholesale revenues, Brown Shoe Co. Inc. reported a fourth-quarter loss of more than $150 million on Wednesday but still managed to beat Wall Street estimates.

“The continuation of the economic uncertainties and credit crisis drove a dramatic increase in the promotional activity of retailers throughout the quarter, which had a detrimental effect on our sales and profitability,” said chairman and CEO Ron Fromm, on a conference call with analysts.

Still, Fromm remained upbeat on the company’s accomplishments in 2008, including the addition of new labels Fergie, Fergalicious, Vera Wang Lavender Label and Libby Edelman.

Analyst Scott Krasik of C.L. King & Associates wrote in a report that despite the weak results, Brown should be a strong earner as the economy improves. “Brown Shoe is positioned to benefit given its competitive positioning in the family footwear channel and diverse business model,” he said. But Krasik cautioned: “There is no near-term catalyst other than ‘it’s got nowhere else to go but up.’”

For the three months ended Jan. 31, the St. Louis-based footwear firm recorded a loss of $153 million, or $3.68 a diluted share, compared to profits of $14 million, or 33 cents a share, last year. Excluding impairment, restructuring and other charges that totaled $141.5 million, the company’s quarterly loss was 28 cents per share, 9 cents better than the analyst consensus estimate of 37 cents.

Sales in the quarter fell 8.8 percent to $521 million from $571.4 million a year ago. Wholesale revenues declined 25.1 percent to $142.7 million. Despite being pinched by a 3.6 percent drop in same-store sales, Famous Footwear saw revenues increase 0.5 percent to $312.3 million. Same-store sales were off 0.3 percent in the specialty retail segment, dominated by Naturalizer shoe stores, as segment revenues fell 5.9 percent to $66 million.

The company declined to give quarterly or yearly earnings guidance for the upcoming year. It did say that based on current conditions and outlook, it expects sales for the year in a range of $2.2 billion to $2.3 billion.

For fiscal 2008, the company reported a loss of $133.2 million, or $3.21 a share, versus earnings of $60.4 million, or $1.37, a year ago. Sales in the 12 months fell 3.5 percent to $2.28 billion from $2.36 billion.

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