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Warm weather cools comps at Children's Place

SECAUCUS, N.J. — The Children's Place Retail Stores is the latest retailer to report fourth-quarter sales that were negatively impacted by the unseasonably warm weather this winter. The company said that comparable-store sales for the quarter declined 2.7%, and net sales were up only slightly (0.9%) to $457.5 million from $453.2 million for the fourth quarter of 2010. 

Children's Place also reported a drop in income from continuing operations after tax from $32.7 million, or $1.24 per diluted share, to $24.2 million, or 97 cents per diluted share.

"Fiscal 2011 was a very productive year, despite the disappointing fourth quarter. The unseasonably warm weather forced us to take aggressive markdowns to clear winter apparel and these discounts, coupled with record high apparel costs, significantly impacted our fourth quarter margin and earnings," commented Jane Elfers, president and CEO. "On the positive side, comparable-store sales increased for the second consecutive quarter in our US Place stores and our e-commerce business grew double digits. In addition, our average unit retail increased high single digits across all channels and merchandise divisions during the quarter. We believe this demonstrates continued customer acceptance of our merchandise direction.

For the fiscal year, net sales increased 2.5% to $1.71 billion in fiscal 2011, compared with $1.67 billion in fiscal 2010. Comparable-retail sales for fiscal 2011 declined 2.5%.

Income from continuing operations after tax was $77.2 million, or $3.01 per diluted share, in fiscal 2011 compared to $83.6 million, or $3.05 per diluted share, in fiscal 2010.

The company closed 27 stores during the fourth quarter of 2011. During fiscal 2011, Children's Place opened 88 stores and closed 34, ending the year with 1,049 stores. The company said it expects to open 60 new stores in fiscal 2012 and close 35.

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