AnnTaylor Stores Corporation announced today that total net sales for the four week period ended February 2, 2002 increased 2.5 percent to $85,037,000 over total net sales of $82,981,000 for the five week period ended February 3, 2001. The Company's 2001 fiscal year ended February 2, 2002 had 52 weeks; the 2000 fiscal year ended February 3, 2001 had 53 weeks. Total net sales for the four-week period ended February 2, 2002 were up 26.9 percent over total net sales of $67,013,000 for the four-week period ended January 27, 2001. Comparable store sales for the fiscal 2001 January period were up 14.6 percent compared to a comparable store sales decrease of 14.3 percent for the four-week period ended January 27, 2001. By division, comparable store sales for fiscal January 2001 were up 16.2 percent for the Ann Taylor division and up 11.8 percent for the new concept Ann Taylor Loft division. For the fiscal quarter ended February 2, 2002, the Company's net sales totaled $371,386,000, up 8.1 percent from $343,580,000 in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2000. Total net sales were up 13.4 percent, compared to total net sales excluding the last week of the fourth quarter of fiscal 2000. Comparable store sales for the fourth quarter of fiscal 2001 increased 2.1 percent, compared to a comparable stores sales decrease of 4.3 percent in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2000, excluding the last week of the quarter. By division, comparable store sales for the fiscal quarter ended February 2, 2002 were flat for the Ann Taylor division and up 8.1 percent for the new concept Ann Taylor Loft division. Based on better than expected sales results in January, the Company now expects fourth quarter earnings per share on a diluted basis to be between $0.33 and $0.34, excluding the approximate $17 million dollar one time charge described in last month's sales release. The Company releases fourth quarter and year-end results on March 6, 2002, after market close. From a national perspective, the Company did see an improvement in downtown and tourist locations but these locations continue to lag in comparison to the rest of the Company. For fiscal January, comparable store sales in downtown and tourist locations were flat, following a 14 percent and an 11 percent decrease in these same locations for December and November, respectively. Ann Taylor Chairman J. Patrick Spainhour said, "The strength of our January sales results was due to our aggressive promotional activity at Ann Taylor and continued product acceptance at Ann Taylor Loft. Our historical end-of-season clearance sales generated significant sell-through of remaining fall inventory at both of our divisions. Comparable store sales results were strongest in the first 2 weeks of the month when we initiated our additional 40 percent off sale. Comparable store sales returned to flat levels at Ann Taylor and high mid-single digits at Ann Taylor Loft for the last week of the month as both divisions had depleted their sale inventories." Mr. Spainhour continued, "Our Fall offerings marked our return to a more classic assortment at our Ann Taylor division. Although the intense promotional environment of the fourth quarter reduced our margin opportunity, we were especially pleased with our Ann Taylor client's positive response to the return of our more classic, brand appropriate offerings. Sales of our January receipts, which was approximately 20 percent of the month's store-set, exceeded expectations in both divisions. We continue to be cautious about the economic uncertainties of fiscal year 2002 and have planned inventory levels accordingly." Inventory levels at the end of January were down approximately 9 percent on a per square foot basis, compared to the prior year. This follows an approximate 10 percent decrease in inventory levels on a per square foot basis at the end of December. Both comparisons exclude inventory attributable to Ann Taylor Global sourcing. For fiscal year 2002 the Company expects inventory levels to remain flat to last year. For the 2002 Spring season, the Company currently expects to achieve comparable store sales flat to last year. For Fall 2002, the Company is projecting comparable store sales in the low single digit positive range. First quarter gross margin, as a percent of sales, is expected to improve over first quarter last year. SG&A, as a percent of sales, is projected to be up over last year as the Company does not expect to get any leverage on first quarter's sales volume. The Company plans to open approximately 45 stores during fiscal year 2002, comprising approximately 7 Ann Taylor stores and 38 Ann Taylor Loft stores. This represents an approximate 2 percent divisional square footage increase for Ann Taylor, and an approximate 18 percent divisional square footage increase for Ann Taylor Loft. In the first quarter of fiscal year 2002, the Company plans to open 1 new Ann Taylor store and 10 new Ann Taylor Loft stores. During the second quarter of 2002, the Company plans to open 1 new Ann Taylor store and 3 new Ann Taylor Loft stores. Based on the above financial assumptions and planned store growth, the Company projects earnings per share on a diluted basis for the 2002 fiscal year to be between $1.85 and $2.00. The Company projects earnings per share on a diluted basis for the first, second, third and fourth quarters in the range of $0.48 - $0.52, $0.30 - $0.34, $0.63 - $0.66 and $0.44 - $0.48, respectively. Annual earnings estimates for 2002 include $0.34, spread equally per quarter, resulting from the elimination of goodwill amortization as a result of implementing Statement of Financial Accounting Standard No. 142. During the month of January 2002, the Company closed 3 Ann Taylor Factory stores. Total store square footage at the end of fiscal year 2001 was up 13.4% over the year before. For the fiscal year 2001 ended February 2, 2002, the Company's net sales totaled $1,299,573,000, up 5.4 percent from $1,232,776,000 in fiscal year 2000. Total sales for fiscal 2001 were up 6.8 percent from $1,216,808,000 in the fifty-two week period ended January 27, 2001. For the 2001 fiscal year, the Company's comparable store sales declined 6.1 percent, compared to a comparable store sales decrease of 0.5 percent for the fifty-two week period ended January 27, 2001. Fiscal year comparable sales by division were down 8.8 percent for the Ann Taylor division and up 4.0 percent for the new concept Ann Taylor Loft division. Ann Taylor is one of the country's leading women's specialty retailers, operating 538 stores in 42 states, the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, and also an Online Store at http://www.anntaylor.com.
FORWARD-LOOKING STATEMENTS Certain statements in this press release are forward-looking statements made pursuant to the safe harbor provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. The forward-looking statements may use the words "expect," "anticipate," "plan," "intend," "project," "believe" and similar expressions. These forward-looking statements reflect the Company's current expectations concerning future events and actual results may differ materially from current expectations or historical results. Any such forward-looking statements are subject to various risks and uncertainties, including failure by the Company to predict accurately customer fashion preferences; decline in the demand for merchandise offered by the Company; competitive influences; changes in levels of store traffic or consumer spending habits; effectiveness of the Company's brand awareness and marketing programs; lack of sufficient customer acceptance of the Ann Taylor Loft concept in the upper-moderate-priced women's apparel market; general economic conditions or a downturn in the retail industry; the inability of the Company to locate new store sites or negotiate favorable lease terms for additional stores or for the expansion of existing stores; lack of sufficient consumer interest in the Company's Online Store; a significant change in the regulatory environment applicable to the Company's business; an increase in the rate of import duties or export quotas with respect to the Company's merchandise; financial or political instability in any of the countries in which the Company's goods are manufactured; acts of war or terrorism in the United States or worldwide; and other factors set fourth in the Company's filings with the SEC. The Company does not assume any obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements at any time for any reason.
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