Jos. A. Bank expects '02 profit to top estimates

Men's clothing chain predicts same for 2003

March 13, 2003|By William Patalon III | William Patalon III,SUN STAFF

Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. expects to beat analyst expectations when it announces its fiscal 2002 earnings Monday, and is predicting it will do the same this year, the company announced yesterday.

"Our strategy is to under-promise and over-perform," said Robert N. Wildrick, Bank's chief executive officer.

The company, a retailer of men's clothing based in Hampstead, said that earnings for the fiscal year that ended Feb. 1 would exceed the latest $1.42 per share consensus estimate of analysts.

But it declined to say by how large a margin it would exceed that number when it announces fourth-quarter and year-end earnings. The company will announce earnings after the market's close Monday and will hold a conference call with investors Tuesday morning.

All profit numbers are reported on a fully diluted basis.

Investors reacted to the positive outlook, driving shares up $1.05, or 5 percent, to close at $21.15 yesterday. A total of 939,624 shares changed hands -- 7.5 times the stock's six-month average daily volume of 124,794, according to statistics from Bloomberg News.

The volume was the highest in the past three years and double the second-highest-volume trading day during that period, according to the company.

Wildrick, an outsider and a retail industry veteran brought in in 1999 to help turn around a then-struggling Bank, said the company has entered the fourth year of a five-year expansion plan that is clearly paying off.

For the current fiscal year, Bank is forecasting profit of $1.75 to $1.85 per share, compared with current consensus estimates by analysts of $1.67 per share.

Referring to those analyst forecasts, Wildrick said, "My sense is those numbers will change after Tuesday," after the conference call.

"They just want to see where we end up" for 2002, before redoing their forecasts for this year, he said.

Just where in its projected range Bank's 2003 profit will fall is up to a number of factors, including the sour U.S. economy, the severe winter weather in recent weeks and a possible war with Iraq, Wildrick said.

Fortunately, he said, the first quarter is not a huge one for the company, meaning these factors will have less of an impact on Bank's profit than they will on other companies' profits.

Profit growth is being fueled by Bank's merchandising strategies and an expansion that is opening an average of a store per week. Bank has about 168 stores now, will have 210 by the end of this year, and plans to open 100 more in each of the next two years. The firm wants to have 500 stores open three years from now.

"I believe in planning and I believe in people," Wildrick said. "We announced our strategic plan, said what we planned to do, and say what we've done."

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