COLUMBUS, Ohio — Express, a specialty retail apparel chain operating more than 620 stores, reported that fourth quarter net sales increased 8% to $728.7 million from $673.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2011. Comparable sales increased 1.5%, following a 5% increase in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Net income was $63.9 million, or 75 cents per diluted share. This compares to net income of $60.4 million, or 68 cents per diluted share in the fourth quarter of 2011.
Net sales for the full year increased 4%. Comparable sales for the year were flat, following a 6% increase in 2011.
Net income was $139.3 million, or $1.60 per diluted share. This compares to net income of $140.7 million, or $1.58 per diluted share, in 2011.
During the fourth quarter of 2012, the company opened 8 new stores, including 3 in Canada, and closed 1 store in the United States. For the full year 2012, the company opened 28 stores, including 5 in Canada, and closed 12 stores in the United States to end the year with 625 locations and 5.4 million gross square feet in operation. The company's international franchisees opened 4 stores in the fourth quarter and 8 stores during the year, ending 2012 with 15 locations across the Middle East and Latin America.
Michael Weiss, Express Inc.'s chairman and CEO commented, "We ended the year positively, with the initiatives we implemented in our women's business driving improved results. These initiatives included: re-balancing our sweater assortment, introducing entry price point fashion items in key categories, especially cut-and- sew knitwear, and communicating clearer pricing and promotional strategies. Our men's business continued its positive momentum and, along with disciplined expense and inventory management and the aforementioned women's initiatives, drove increased sales, positive comparable sales, and net income per diluted share above the increased guidance provided in the fourth quarter. We attribute our improved performance over the third quarter to the strength of our products, specifically sweaters and cut-and-sew knitwear, which we had previously identified as categories for improvement. In addition, we generated our third consecutive year of double digit e-commerce sales growth and achieved our store expansion goals. We were also pleased with our international expansion that included the opening of 4 additional franchise stores i