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ST. LOUIS-Bakers Footwear Group Inc. is walking tallafter releasing its third quarter earnings. Thefashion footwear chain achieved increases in both netsales and comp-store sales, in addition to decreasingits net loss.

Bakers Footwear chairman and CEO Peter Edison saidduring the chain’s earnings conference call that thethird quarter was “a period of great improvement.” Net sales increased 33.9% to $43.2 million from $32.3million for the same period last year, whilecomp-store sales jumped 21% compared to a 7.6%decrease last year.

Operating loss decreased to $1.7 million to 3.9% ofnet sales from the operating loss of $4 million, or12.3% of net sales, for the third quarter last year.The chain decreased its net loss by more than 50% to$1.05 million from $2.6 million last year with a lossper share of 17 cents compared to a loss per share of51 cents for the same period last year.

Gross profit in the third quarter of 2005 improved to$11.8 million, or 27.4% of net sales, compared to $6.9million, or 21.4% of net sales, in the third quarterof fiscal 2004. Operating expenses were $13.6 million,or31.3% of net sales compared to $10.9 million, or 33.7%of net sales in the third quarter of fiscal 2004.

Edison attributes the improvement and growth to thechain’s new and remodeled stores. During the thirdquarter, the chain opened 11 new stores and remodeledsix stores, bringing its nationwide total to 112.

Bakers Footwear president Michele Bergerac said duringthe call that average unit retail was up 30.4% withprice increases shown in every category and particularstrength shown in the boots and closed casual footwear categories. “In the fourth quarter, we continue to see excitement in boots and dress shoes, and we expect the holiday season to be extremely successful,” she said.

Edison added: “Out business continues robustly into mid-December with comp-sales growth for the fourth quarter to date, ahead of the third quarter number of 21%.”

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