Bank says sales rise 14.2%, predicts earnings surprise

`Our business formula seems to be working,' clothier's CEO says

November 08, 2001|By Andrea K. Walker | Andrea K. Walker,SUN STAFF

While most of the apparel industry is suffering from lackluster business, Hampstead-based Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. said yesterday that its third-quarter sales increased 14.2 percent and that it will be reporting better-than-expected earnings for the period.

Last month, the men's apparel retailer said it was on track to double its earnings per share, to 14 cents a share from 7 cents in last year's third quarter. Bank officials now expect to exceed that prediction. Bank is to report third-quarter results Nov. 19.

The company also forecast a strong holiday season.

"We're very enthusiastic that our business formula seems to be working," said Robert N. Wildrick, Bank chief executive officer.

Total sales for the three months that ended Nov. 3 increased to $50 million from $44 million. October sales jumped 14.8 percent, to $20 million from $17.4 million.

Sales at stores open at least a year increased 7.2 percent in October and 4.3 percent in the third quarter.

Bank has opened several stores this year as part of an expansion it announced in 2000. It opened 18 stores this year, for a total of 132, and plans to open another three before year's end.

Bank officials attributed the increased sales - at a time when other retailers have been flat or off from the previous year - to improved quality of the chain's line of clothing and to Internet sales, which more than doubled.

Most of the nation's large retailers will release sales numbers today.

Wildrick said his sales team has aggressively sold and marketed the Bank product.

"While other people were laying off their associates in September, we committed to our associates that we would not lay anybody off," Wildrick said. "Our associates responded well by really going after business."

Wildrick said tuxedo sales increased in October as shoppers realized that it was cheaper in the long run to buy than to rent. He also said the company's outerwear sold well as temperatures dropped.

"Our outerwear program has been a tremendous home run," Wildrick said. "Everything from leather to microfiber has sold."

Analysts said Bank has also benefited from low prices.

"Most retailers are in far worse shape than Jos. Bank," said Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard's Retail Trend Report, an industry newsletter.

"They sell casual clothing. They haven't made any forays into formal wear hoping it would take off. They know who their customer is and what their customer wants."

Shares of Bank gained 20 cents to $7.35 yesterday.

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