Fashion giant Polo Ralph Lauren Corp on Wednesday posted a sharp rise in fourth quarter adjusted income on the back of higher wholesale and retail sales, better inventory management and increased efficiencies.

The New York-based firm reported adjusted income of $76.1 million, or 77 cents per diluted share, for the 13 weeks ended March 29, compared to $57m, or 58 cents per share, in the year-ago period.

The adjusted figures exclude gains on foreign currency translations, a charge for the consolidation of its European operations and a real-estate restructuring charge in the year-earlier period.

It added fourth quarter net income under generally accepted accounting principles was $73.2m, or 74 cents per share, compared with $48m, or 48 cents per share, in 2002.

"Strong customer demand and a balanced growth strategy delivered another record year of results, despite ongoing challenges in the marketplace," said chairman and CEO Ralph Lauren.

"We enjoyed record success in our own specialty retail business, while we continued to be an important brand to our department store partners. We drove solid domestic results and accelerated our growth in international markets.

"Our ability to produce strong results from multiple channels and in multiple geographies, reinforces our belief that our brands and flexible business model are truly unique, giving us the ability to drive profitable long-term growth."

"Our double-digit earnings growth was driven by the increasingly strong customer response to our luxury lifestyle products and the performance and flexibility of our multi-year initiatives," added Roger Farah, president and COO.

"We are particularly pleased with the strength of our retail operations as we continue to make improvements in all of our store formats. In addition, ongoing improvements to our supply chain and information systems have significantly enhanced our ability to better manage our global business, despite a difficult environment."

The firm also reaffirmed its fiscal 2004 guidance which sees modest revenue increases to produce adjusted earnings growth to be in the range of $1.95 to $2.05 per share.

The company says increases are expected to be driven by increased retail sales offset by planned decreases in its men's domestic wholesale business and low single digit sales in Europe impacted by the consolidation process.