Retailer Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. said yesterday that same-store sales rose 2.4 percent in March, one sign that first-quarter profit will likely be up over last year's.
The Hampstead-based men's apparel chain said sales rose 12.2 percent, to $23.9 million, in the fiscal month that ended April 5, compared with $21.3 million in March 2002. Combined catalog and Internet sales rose 3.7 percent in March, the company said.
"Despite a difficult economy and consumer anxieties regarding the war in Iraq, we continue to have sales increases that are among the best in the industry," said Robert N. Wildrick, Bank's chief executive officer.
The retailer sells tailored and casual men's apparel at 172 stores in 32 states.
Michael Via, director of research for Richmond, Va.-based Anderson & Strudwick, which follows the company's stock, said he was pleased to see any increase in same-store sales - those in stores open at least a year - because the chain posted extremely strong results in March 2002.
"They were going up against a big month for them last year," Via said.
"And, with two weeks of war going on, they were able to pull off a good month despite that."
Based on the positive March results and increases in gross profit margins, the company expects its first-quarter earnings per share to exceed those of 2002's first quarter, Wildrick said.
Via said he agreed with that prediction. The analyst expects the retailer to earn 28 cents per share in the first quarter, up from 25 cents per share in the first quarter of 2002.
"They're very adept at having the proper inventory mix and quick at identifying what is moving and making sure the shelves are full of what's moving," Via said.
Analysts say the chain has been able to continue posting positive sales and earnings through a weak economy as it has gained market share from competitors. Wildrick credited the chain's product assortment this season, especially in business attire, a category that has been leading sales.
Total sales so far in the first quarter, including February and March, have been up 10.1 percent, to $39.3 million, compared with $35.7 million in the comparable months of 2002.
Via said he expects total sales to rise as much as 13 percent in the first quarter.
"I would say they're on track to get a 13 percent increase, particularly since ... new stores are coming on line," he said.
Jos. Bank is opening 14 new stores this week, as part of a previously announced expansion strategy to open 50 stores this year, the company said yesterday.
The company's shares declined 30 cents to $26.13 yesterday.