Children's apparel and accessories retailer The Gymboree Corporation on Wednesday reported a rise in net income to $10.5 million, or $0.35 per share, for the fourth quarter, compared to a net loss of $1.2 m, or $0.04 per share, in the year-ago period.

The firm, which operates 580 stores in the US, Canada and Europe, said comparable store sales for the four-week period ended March 2, 2002, were flat compared to a 53 per cent comparable increase during the same four-week period last year. Net sales for the four-week period were $37.1m, versus $37.6m last year.

Gymboree also revealed it plans to launch a new baby gift retail chain on a test market basis in the third quarter of 2002. Called Janie & Jack, it will focus on high-end baby and infant clothing and gifts and will roll out with approximately 10 stores in the US.

"We are very proud of our many accomplishments in 2001. We fixed our product, instituted operational efficiencies, strengthened our balance sheet and ended the year profitable with a healthy gross margin," said Lisa Harper, Gymboree's vice chair and chief executive officer.

"We are entering the next stage of our turnaround by optimising our overall inventory productivity on a store-by-store basis."

She added: "We will remain extremely focused on our core Gymboree retail business as we continue to leverage opportunities for growth there. We believe that we also have a very strong opportunity to grow the overall business by developing specialty niche brands in underserved markets. We will test this belief in a very focused way with Janie & Jack."

Net sales net sales for the 13 weeks ended February 2, 2002, slipped to $150.4m from $153.3m last year, while sales for the 52-week period reached $505.4m compared to $448.6m in 2001.

For the remainder of the first quarter of fiscal 2002, Gymboree projects comparable store sales for the months of March and April to each be in the low single digits, while looking forward to the balance of the year, it expects comparable store sales to be in the low to mid single digits.