Brown Shoe chain reports profit increase

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

ST. LOUIS -- International footwear retailer Brown Shoe Co. Inc. reported a boost in profits during the third quarter in spite of back-to-school sales the company described as unexpectedly weak.

Brown Shoe was helped during the quarter by its recent acquisition of Bennett Footwear Group LLC, executives told investors during a conference call Tuesday, with the new division adding 16 cents per share of profit.

For the quarter ending Oct. 29, Brown Shoe reported revenue of $617.7 million, up 20 percent from last year when sales were $514.8 million. Net income was $19.8 million, up 6.5 percent from last year when net income was $18.6 million. Earnings per share were $1.04 during the quarter, an increase of 4 percent from $1 per share a year earlier.

The earnings met Wall Street expectations, according to Thomson Financial. The company's stock rose $1.75, or 5 percent, to $38.25 per share during morning trading on the New York Stock Exchange.

The third quarter performance led Brown Shoe to upwardly revise its earnings expectations for the year to between $1.92 and $2.07 per share, up from between $1.75 and $2.

"Shoe love is true love, and right now the consumer is having a love affair with footwear," chairman and chief executive officer Ron Fromm told stock analysts during the conference call.

A more murky relationship is that between Brown Shoe and Federated Department Stores Inc., which acquired St. Louis-based May Department Stores earlier this year. Brown Shoe is also based in St. Louis.

Brown Shoe president Diane Sullivan said Federated remains a key outlet for shoe sales and officials are staying in close contact as the department store chain shuffles operations after the merger.

"We're working closely with them to understand their plans," Sullivan said. "We recognize that we must continue earning our stripes every day."

Brown Shoe operates nearly 1,300 stores, although the company plans to close about 97 stores by the end of this year.

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