• Full year net sales fall
  • Improving results in Q4
  • Comparable store sales up 10% in February

Despite seeing an improvement in its fourth quarter, Ann Taylor Stores Corporation today (15 March) reported a fall in full year sales.

Income, however, showed an improvement over last year and the company's CEO said it had entered 2010 on a strong footing.

Net sales for the full year were $1.8bn , compared with net sales of $2.2bn last year.

By division, net sales at Ann Taylor were $456.6m in 2009, compared with net sales of $689.2m in 2008. At Loft, net sales were $939.9m in 2009, compared with net sales of $1,088.4 million in 2008.

Comparable store sales for fiscal 2009 declined 17.8%, with a 30.0% decline at Ann Taylor and a 12.7% decline at Loft.

Excluding a series of pre-tax restructuring and asset impairment charges net income reached $17.8m, compared with net income of $2.9m in 2008. On a GAAP basis, including the charges, net loss for 2009 was $18.2m, compared with a net loss of $333.9m in 2008.

Kay Krill, president and CEO, said: "Fiscal 2009 ended on a strong note, with fourth quarter results coming in ahead of our expectations.

"Our success was driven by compelling product at both Ann Taylor and Loft, our well-executed promotional strategy and effective inventory management.

"Together, these accomplishments during the quarter translated into significantly improved sales and margin trends, including a substantial increase in full-price selling compared to last year, as well as higher profitability and earnings.

"We are pleased that we entered fiscal 2010 in a solid position. We have strong momentum into the first quarter, with both brands achieving comparable store sales increases of approximately 10% in February.

"We ended the year with a healthy balance sheet and no bank debt.

"Importantly, even as we take steps to enhance sales growth in 2010, we will be focused on delivering strong gross margin performance with a disciplined approach to inventory management."

Net sales for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2009 were $469.1m, compared with net sales of $483.4m in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2008.

Comparable store sales for the quarter were essentially flat, at negative 0.6% versus the prior year. At Ann Taylor, comparable store sales declined 7.3% while at LOFT, comparable stores sales increased 2.1%.

The company reported net income in the quarter of $2.5m compared with a net loss of $58.1m in the fourth quarter of 2008. On a GAAP basis, the company reported net income that was approximately breakeven in the quarter compared with a net loss of $375.6m in 2008.

The company added that it expected its restructuring programme to generate total ongoing annualised savings of $125m over the 2008-2010 period.

For the fiscal first quarter of 2010, the company expects total net sales to be $445m.