The Stride Rite Corporation has reported its results for the fourth quarter of the 2000 fiscal year, showing a decrease in net sales of 7 per cent to $95.4m compared to the same period last year.

The company also incurred a net loss of $685,000 or $.02 per diluted share in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2000 as compared to net income of $399,000 or $.01 per diluted share in last year's fourth quarter.

For the 2000 fiscal year, net sales totaled $548.3m, a four per cent decline from the sales level of $572.7m achieved in fiscal 1999. On a diluted basis, earnings were $.58 per share in fiscal 2000, a slight improvement from fiscal 1999's earnings of $.57 per share as the company's continuing share repurchase program resulted in a 7 per cent decline in outstanding shares.

Net income totaled $25.2m in fiscal 2000, a five per cent decline from the net income of $26.4m in fiscal 1999. The 1999 net income amount included non-recurring charges of $3.2m pre-tax ($.04 per diluted share) related to a restructuring of the company's administrative staff which occurred in last year's third fiscal quarter.

In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2000, sales of the Stride Rite Children's Group increased one per cent with sales growth of four per cent at company-owned retail stores offsetting a three per cent decline in sales of Stride Rite products to independent stores.

After adjusting for the extra week in the fourth quarter of fiscal 1999, sales at comparable retail stores increased 8.4 per cent during the fourth quarter of fiscal 2000.

For the 2000 fiscal year, Stride Rite Children's Group sales increased three per cent, with all of the sales gain driven by higher sales of the company's retail stores, which were up seven per cent from 1999.

Sales at comparable stores in 2000 increased 3.2 per cent for the twelve-month period after adjusting for the extra week in fiscal 1999.

Sales of the Keds brand in fiscal 2000 were lower for both the fourth quarter and the full fiscal year, a decrease of eight per cent and five per cent, respectively, from the comparable periods of fiscal 1999 as the Keds brand went through a major strategy shift and product line transition during fiscal 2000.

The Sperry business also saw a sales decline in fiscal 2000 with sales below last year by 10 per cent in the fourth quarter and off four per cent for the twelve months.

In the fourth quarter of fiscal 2000, sales of Tommy Hilfiger footwear were below the comparable period in fiscal 1999 by 20 per cent, which resulted in the annual sales for the Hilfiger brand being 12 per cent below the fiscal 1999 level. Unit shipments of Tommy Hilfiger footwear in fiscal 2000 were actually even with last year's level, but a nine per cent decrease in sales of discontinued products and an eight per cent reduction in average selling price contributed to the year over year sales decline.

David M Chamberlain, Stride Rite's chairman and chief executive officer, said: "While the company's performance fell short of our expectations in fiscal 2000, we made solid progress on several important fronts during the year, especially with respect to our two key brands, Stride Rite and Keds.

"As we open fiscal 2001, we are cautiously optimistic, but we remain concerned about the overall sales trends of our key retail partners. However, with the momentum at Stride Rite and Keds, we expect improved performance in the new year. We have set corporate goals for fiscal 2001 that call for revenue growth of 3 per cent to 5 per cent and profit improvement of 8per cent to 12 per cent above the performance in fiscal 2000."