There was no easily available news to explain why shares of plus-size women's apparel retailer Charming Shoppes
What appears most likely is that investors are reacting belatedly to Charming Shoppes' fiscal Q4 (ended Jan. 31) and full-year financial results, reported March 18. Also perhaps interesting were SEC filings last week detailing increased ownership among a group of VP-level employees, but those were share grants made as part of the company's compensation plan rather than open-market purchases.
Charming Shoppes' full-year numbers weren't amazing across the board: Sales fell, while gross margins shrank. But much of the company's full-year hit to operating income came because of a restructuring that pulled the number back by $11.5 million. That, investors will recall, has to do with a year-old cost reduction plan that has included job cuts, consolidated distribution and credit operations, and some store closings. It was expected to increase pre-tax income by some $45 million annually starting in fiscal 2005.
This year's fourth quarter, though, looks like a good example of Charming Shoppes' progress. Gross margins widened year over year, while SG&A expenses as a percentage of revenue fell substantially. Operating margins more than doubled to 2.9%. With interest expense holding fast, net income jumped 162% to $10.1 million.
With the company returning to fourth-quarter net profitability after two years in the red -- and looking to grow sales and maintain or widen profit margins in fiscal 2005 -- it's not to tough to see why investors are finding Shoppes' shares more Charming lately.
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Fool contributor Dave Marino-Nachison doesn't own shares of Charming Shoppes.