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DALLAS-Though up from last year, carriage-trade retailer Neiman Marcus’ first-quarter numbers were dragged down by the sale of its Chef’s Catalog cookware business recently, with the company reporting net earnings of about $64 million, or $1.30 per diluted share in the first quarter of fiscal year 2005 (ended Oct. 30), compared to $56 million, or $1.16 per diluted share, in the first quarter of fiscal year 2004. But for the loss on the disposition of Chef’s Catalog, adjusted earnings for the Q1 2005 would have been about $73 million, or $1.49 per diluted share.

“We had an outstanding quarter,” said Burton M. Tansky, president and CEO of the retailer during Wednesday’s earnings conference call. “The results were accomplished by leveraging our expense base, and improving our gross margin through an emphasis on full-price selling and inventory management,” he noted, adding that same-store sales throughout the company’s properties rose 8.4%. Some analysts had predicted an increase of 9.8%.

First-quarter revenues for the specialty retail stores segment, which consists of Neiman Marcus stores and Bergdorf Goodman, were $737 million, compared to $665 million in the previous year, representing an increase of 10.4% at Neiman Marcus stores and 14.3% at Bergdorf Goodman. Comparable revenues for Neiman Marcus stores increased 10.6% for the first quarter of fiscal 2005.

Tansky attributed the same-store sales growth throughout the company to strong performances by items such as handbags, women’s sportswear, denim and shoes. Regarding the holiday sales season now under way, he said that the company was looking forward to benefiting from the two extra days between Thanksgiving and Christmas this year. He also noted that he thought the spring fashion lines now coming out of New York, Paris and Milan would be “very salable” looking ahead.

“In real estate activities, the company will stick to its growth plans of 2% to 3% per year in total square footage,” Tansky said. “We’re in line to do that in 2005, with new openings in San Antonio and Boca Raton, Florida.” The San Antonio opening will be the first new store the company has opened in Texas in about 20 years, and the Boca Raton store will be the company’s seventh in Florida, which Tansky called a very strong market for Neiman Marcus.

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