Upscale retailer Neiman Marcus Group Inc on Tuesday reported a jump in fourth quarter net profit as its performance was boosted by strong sales of women's fashions and designer handbags.

The Dallas-based company posted net earnings for the quarter ended August 2 of $7 million, or 15 cents per share, compared to net earnings of $5m, or 11 cents per share, in same period of last year.

Sales for the latest quarter climbed to $703m from $666m while for the full year net earnings rose to $109m, or $2.29 per diluted share, from $100m, or $2.08 per diluted share, in 2002 as sales edged up 5.1 per cent to $3.1 billion from $2.95bn.

President and CEO, Burton Tansky, said: "Overall, I am very pleased with our fiscal year 2003 results. Our focus on sales growth, inventory management and expense control contributed to a successful year in a particularly challenging period.

"In the last few months, we have seen an improvement in the retail environment. While these recent trends are encouraging, we remain committed to improving the operational efficiencies of our business.

"The initiatives we began in fiscal 2003, combined with our 2004 plans, position us to benefit in an improving economy."

He added the firm currently sees same-store sales for the current fiscal quarter up in the mid-single digit range.