Jos. A. Bank expects record for 2001, though sales fell off

Menswear chain's revenue dipped 5% in Dec. due to slump

January 11, 2002|By Meredith Cohn | Meredith Cohn,SUN STAFF

Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. said yesterday that total sales in December dropped 5 percent from December 2000, but the company still expects record earnings for the year.

Sales at the Hampstead-based retailer were $32.2 million for December 2001, compared with $33.9 million in December 2000. The numbers include sales at the men's clothing chain's 21 new stores.

Same-store sales, which are sales at stores open at least a year and are considered a key indicator of a retailer's health, were down 6.7 percent in December 2001 compared with December 2000.

Robert N. Wildrick, Bank's chief executive officer, said the entire clothing industry has been faced with a slumping economy and cautious shoppers, but the men's sector has been hit the hardest.

"We anticipated sales to be soft in the fourth quarter," he said. "The economy is a little bit tough right now. ... But we're encouraged by our sales for the year."

The retail industry reported that sales in December 2001 were up overall 2.3 percent from the year before. Sales at department stores and specialty stores were down in general, while sales at discounters were up in general.

"Apparel took it on the chin unless you were a discounter," said Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard's Retail Trend Report, an industry newsletter. "They were down 5 percent? They have every reason to celebrate. Compare that to the Gap, down 11 percent; Federated [Department Stores Inc.], down 9 percent."

Wildrick reiterated yesterday that Bank's earnings per share for the year should be at least 85 cents, which would be a record performance for the company. Earnings for the year will be reported in another month.

Wildrick said a bright spot for Jos. A. Bank is Internet sales, which rose 55.7 percent last month. The bulk of the retailer's Internet customers, about 60 percent, had been catalog customers. Catalog sales decreased 26.2 percent.

The company plans to begin reporting Internet and catalog sales as one number this year because officials consider it a single department. Bank has been reducing the number of catalogs it prints in an effort to shift customers to the less costly method of ordering over the Web.

Wildrick said profit on Internet and catalog sales together are expected to be up about $1 million for 2001.

Shares in Jos. A. Bank lost 20 cents yesterday to close at $7.25.

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