Off-price operator Retail Ventures Inc managed to halve its loss in the fourth quarter.

The Columbus, Ohio-based owner of Value City, DSW and Filene's Basement was thrown for a loss in both the quarter and the year by charges related to the decline in the value of derivative instruments.

The net loss for the three months ended 3 February was US$35.9m, or $0.76 a diluted share, versus a deficit of $71.1m, or $1.79, in the year-ago period. Excluding derivative-related charges, Retail Ventures would have recorded earnings per diluted share of $0.62 versus EPS of $0.06 a year ago.

Sales during the 14-week period increased 6.5% to $874m from $820.5m in the 13-week 2005 period and declined 2.8% on a same-store basis, eliminating the effect of the extra week in 2006.

By division, Value City's sales declined 2.5% to $415.1m and were off 5.6% on a comparable-store basis; DSW sales improved 15.9%, to $329.1m, and inched up 1% on a comp basis; and Filene's Basement volume trended up 16.9%, to $129.8m, but its comps fell 1.3%.

In the full year, the net loss was tapered to $150.9m, or $3.35 a diluted share, from $183.4m, or $4.75, during 2005. Retail Ventures said EPS would have been $0.55 versus a net loss of $1.01 per diluted share in the prior year without derivative-related charges.

Sales for the year cleared the $3bn hurdle, rising 5.3% to $3.07bn from $2.91bn. Comps were up 0.8%.

At Value City, sales dropped 1.4% to $1.36bn while comps were down 1.3%. DSW sales were up 11.8%, to $1.28bn, while comps rose 2.5%. At Filene's Basement, sales advanced 9.8%, to $427.5m, while comps moved ahead 3.1%.

At the end of the last fiscal year, Retail Ventures operated 113 Value City stores, 223 DSW units and 31 Filene's Basement stores.
By Arnold J Karr.