- The Washington Times - Monday, December 5, 2005

Menswear retailer Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. reported a 47 percent surge in net income during the third quarter, the company said yesterday.

The Hampstead, Md., retailer said net income for the quarter ended Oct. 29 grew to $4.7 million, or 32 cents per diluted share, from $3.2 million, 22 cents, a year ago.

“The third quarter was our busiest quarter of the year,” Chief Executive Officer Robert Wildrick told investors during the company’s conference call. “We’re very pleased with the way things have gone.”

During the quarter, the company — which currently operates 307 stores in 37 states and the District — opened 24 stores across the country, a quarter of which were in new markets, Mr. Wildrick said.

The stock closed yesterday at $44.32 compared with $42.88 on Friday and $23.73 a year ago.

“Almost all of the company’s major product categories generated sales gains in third quarter 2005,” said Paula Kalandiak, an analyst with Roth Capital Partners in Newport Beach, Calif., which does not own any Jos. A. Bank stock.

In the fourth quarter, “While the company had a weaker-than-expected ‘Black Friday,’ the important month of December is off to a good start.”

The century-old retailer, which does most of its marketing through direct-mail catalogs, said performance on the Friday after Thanksgiving hurt November sales.

“We got off to an extremely slow start the first four hours of the day and we did not come anywhere near our sales plan,” said Mr. Wildrick, who attributed the loss in business to early-bird sales at electronics retailers. “However, sales have increased nicely after that date.”

The company did not provide new fourth-quarter guidance, but said it plans to open 17 or 18 new stores during the quarter. Most of these will open in January, Mr. Wildrick said, so the company can focus its energy in December on holiday sales.

Ivan Feinseth, an analyst with Matrix USA LLC in New York City, said the company’s performance is slowing despite a strong third quarter.

“They have a good value proposition and they are a good place to shop,” said Mr. Feinseth, whose company doesn’t own any shares. “But we feel the growth in the operating profit is slowing.”

Mr. Feinseth said the company’s new-store “ramp-up period” — the time it takes for a new store to become profitable — is not competitive enough. In addition, Mr. Feinseth said, men’s clothing is a tough market.

“Men do not spend the way women do,” Mr. Feinseth said. “The fashion trends don’t change as much. There are very few retailers that just target the men’s market the way they do.”

Still, the company says its “key items,” including fiber sweaters, micro-suede blazers and traveler’s shirts, are diverse enough to guarantee a strong holiday season.

“We’re always pretty promotional in December and we’re emphasizing key items in a much more aggressive manner this year,” said Neal Black, chief merchandising officer for Jos. A. Bank. “The suit business will start back up as an emphasis after Christmas.”

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