Jos. A. Bank's sales increase for eighth consecutive month

`Dress-up' is a strength, as is trend back to suits

February 07, 2003|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

Hampstead-based Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. continued a streak of monthly sales increases in January, reporting a nearly 10 percent jump in same-store sales.

The men's apparel chain reported total sales of $15.4 million for the fiscal month that ended Feb. 1, a 20.3 percent increase over sales of $12.8 million in January 2002. Last month's sales figure marked a record for any four-week January - as opposed to a fiscal January including five weeks - in the retailer's history.

Same-store sales (sales at stores open at least a year and considered the best gauge of a retailer's performance) rose 9.9 percent, the company said. Bank's same-store sales have been up each month for the past eight months.

"We're doing well in the dress-up areas and seeing movement back to suits, which falls right into our hands," said Robert N. Wildrick, Bank's chief executive officer. "But we did well across the board, in better trousers and suits."

Bank reported its monthly sales yesterday along with other national retail chains. The retailer said it will report fourth-quarter earnings March 17.

Yesterday, the retailer also reported record sales for the fourth quarter and fiscal year that ended Feb. 1.

Total fourth-quarter sales rose 15.8 percent to $77.9 million, while 2002 sales were up 15.4 percent, to $243.4 million.

Same-store sales rose 5.6 percent in both the fourth quarter and the fiscal year. Combined catalog and Internet sales jumped 20.2 percent in the fourth quarter and 22.9 percent in the fiscal year.

Wildrick called the chain's sales "outstanding ... in a year that has been difficult for many retailers."

He said the company's investment several years ago in better quality control of its apparel is paying off and helping to attract customers who previously shopped at department stores and outlet malls.

"They're chasing quality," he said. "Our higher-quality items are selling by far the best. The customers are really discriminating on the side of higher-quality merchandise."

One of Bank's biggest strengths has been to know its customer, said Kurt Barnard, president of Barnard's Retail Trend Report.

"They don't digress from serving their customer and aiming themselves at the customer," he said.

The company is on track with its plan to open 50 stores this year and at least another 75 next year, Wildrick said.

Bank's stock rose 19 cents to $23.18 a share yesterday.

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