St. John Knits International Inc announced that it had increased its fourth quarter net sales by 19.1 per cent compared to the same period last year.

Net sales reached $91.3m compared with $76.6m received for the same period last year. For the fiscal year ended October 29, 2000, net sales were $336.5m, an increase of 14.4 per cent over the $294.2m reported for fiscal 1999.

The company also reported a net income totalling $9.1m or $1.22 per share for the fourth quarter versus net income of $4.5m or $0.53 per share last year. Net income for the fiscal year was $23.8m or $3 per share compared with $14.7m or $0.98 per share last year.

The company revealed that the year-to-year increase in net sales of $42.3m is primarily attributable to increases in sales of the Knit and Sport product lines to the company's wholesale accounts, as well as in the company-operated retail stores.

Sales of these two product lines increased 10.5 per cent and 137.3 per cent, respectively, and accounted for 80 per cent and 9.2 per cent, respectively, of total sales for the year.

The Retail Division accounted for 33.3 per cent of total sales for fiscal 2000 versus 30.5 per cent last year. For the fourth quarter and fiscal year, same store sales for the company operated full-price boutiques increased 7.6 per cent and 20.3 per cent, respectively.

Bob Gray, chairman and chief executive officer, said that he was very pleased with the overall performance of the company and that St. John was reporting record sales for both the quarter and the fiscal year. He went on to say that it was an opportune time to relinquish the chief executive officer title after holding that position for more than 38 years.

THe company had previously announced that HW Mullins would become chief executive officer effective February 1 with Gray continuing as chairman.