Williams-Sonoma earnings, sales rise in Q4

Williams-Sonoma Inc., parent of high-end retailers Pottery Barn and Williams-Sonoma Home, reported earnings for the fourth quarter rose 3 percent to $124.6 million from $121.1 million in the same period last year, a gain spurred in part by an extra week in the 14-week quarter. Sales were up 9 percent to $1.37 billion from $1.25 billion.

Howard Lester, chairman and CEO of Williams-Sonoma, said the fourth-quarter results represented the higher end of company estimates for that period.

“While the post-holiday macro environment continued to soften, we remained focused on the things we could control,” he said. “We are pleased with these results.”

Overall, the company’s outlet stores saw a 4.4 percent gain in same-store sales, the largest same-store gain overall. Pottery Barn stores were down 1.5 percent in same-store sales, while Pottery Barn Kids stores fell 2.4 percent in same-store sales. Same-store sales rose 1.1 percent at kitchen decor retailer Williams-Sonoma.

For the year, earnings fell 6 percent to $195.8 million from $208.9 million. Year-over-year, sales were up 6 percent to $3.94 billion from $3.73 billion.

The company still expects the next year to be challenging, with Lester commenting it is expected to be “one of the most challenging macro-economic environments we have seen in many years.”

“Accordingly, we are approaching 2008 with a high level of caution and a view to preserve flexibility in our business plans,” he said.

In the 2008, Williams-Sonoma plans to add 29 new stores – 12 in the West Elm division – and expand or remodel an additional 20 stores. The San Francisco-based company operates about 600 stores, seven mail order catalogs and six e-commerce Web sites throughout the United States.

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