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FOOTHILL RANCH, CA-With healthy comps bolstering a disappointing net loss, the Wet Seal will continue to expand steadily, executives said at its fourth-quarter conference call.Plans call for opening 68 to 72 new stores this year, consisting of five Arden B units, and the rest Wet Seal.

“There is potential for 600-plus stores in Wet Seal and at least 250 stores in the Arden B Brand,” said John Luttrell, EVP and CFO. “We’re not married to a number, but plan to grow the store count 15% annually.”

The company opened 14 new stores during the fourth quarter, net of closures.

For the 14-week fourth quarter, net sales were $166.4 million, compared with net sales of $141.4 million for the 13-week fourth quarter of the previous year. Comparable-store sales rose 3.1%. The net loss for the fourth quarter was $5.7 million, compared with a net loss of $2.9 million in the prior-year fourth quarter.

For the 53-week fiscal year, Wet Seal posted net sales of $564.3 million, compared with net sales of $500.8 million for the 52-week previous year. Comparable-store sales rose 6.1%. For the year, the chain reported a net loss of $12.8 million, compared with a net loss of $52.7 million the previous year.

As of Feb. 3, Wet Seal operated 430 stores, consisting of 338 Wet Seal stores and 92 Arden B stores.

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