BURLINGTON CITY, NJ-Hurt by a staggering $7.2 million in charges, Burlington Coat Factory Warehouse Corp. saw its net income drop 29.2% to $15.3 million for the fourth quarter of 2005, down $6.3 million from last year’s $21.6 million.

The charges, reflecting a lawsuit settlement, disputed freight expenses and an adjustment for changing the accrual period on personal property taxes, sent per share profits down to 34 cents compared to 48 cents per share a year earlier.

Company officials said in a conference call Monday that they were exploring “strategic alternatives” to improve the firm’s stock value and had hired global investment and banking firm Goldman Sachs to assist in that process. The firm’s management declined to elaborate further on the type of “strategic alternatives” it would implement.

While Burlington’s net income dropped, so did its income from continuing operations which declined to $24.7 million before taxes, compared to $33.7 million for the same quarter a year earlier. That drop in continuing operations income was a result of a $2 million benefit posted by the apparel retailer to reconcile estimated shrinkage during the first eight months of the fiscal year with actual shrinkage discovered during a year-end inventor.

Even as profits declined for the company, net sales for the quarter ending May 28 were up 11.6% to $756.9 million, an increase from the same period last year when net sales were $678.1 million. Comparable store sales also were up for the quarter by 7.9%.

The company fared better over the entire fiscal year however, with a net income of $105 million or $2.35 a share, compared to the prior fiscal year when net income was $68 million or $1.52 per share. Net sales for the year also topped last year’s $2.8 billion, totaling $3.2 billion for the fiscal year ending May 28.

Burlington, which opened nine stores in fiscal 2005, sells discounted brand-name clothing at 362 stores in 42 states under its flagship brand and the Baby Depot, Cohoes Fashions and Luxury Linens names.