Ann Taylor (NYSE:ANN) -- turnaround or turn away?

The retailer's fourth-quarter net income dropped 21.5% to $21.5 million, although sales increased 6.3% to $610.5 million. (The quarter included an additional week compared to last year.) Same-store sales decreased 6%, compared to a 6.8% increase this time last year.

By concept, the core Ann Taylor stores' comps fell 5.9%, while Loft's comps dropped 8.9%. Like many retailers, Ann Taylor said the unseasonably warm winter weather helped put a damper on sales. (Please see our related Fool by Numbers article for a full rundown of Ann Taylor's quarterly numbers.)

Ann Taylor's forecast got investors excited, though, and the retailer has many initiatives planned for the coming year. Most interesting is that Ann Taylor plans a brand-new concept. The company has not identified it yet, but says it will aim for "a very attractive untapped opportunity in the market today." (Investors are likely looking forward to hearing what exactly that untapped opportunity is.) Ann Taylor plans to launch this new concept in fall 2008. (Given Gap's (NYSE:GPS) recent decision to shutter the nascent Forth & Towne concept, it should be interesting to see where Ann Taylor goes with this new concept.)

Furthermore, Ann Taylor said it is expanding its factory outlet stores to include Loft factory stores. Also, the retailer will introduce a new Ann Taylor Beauty collection, consisting of fragrance and bath and body products, which will be available late this year or early next year. It may seem a bit odd, but it's not unprecedented. Limited's (NYSE:LTD) Victoria's Secret's ancillary line of fragrance and pampering products springs to mind.

Ann Taylor said it expects better performance this year, but maybe some optimism should remain checked. After all, the retailer faces stiff competition from many avenues, including the usual suspects like Chico's (NYSE:CHS), Talbots (NYSE:TLB), and Coldwater Creek (NASDAQ:CWTR), all of which have been particularly eager to attract customers lately. Furthermore, while I'm curious about the new concept Ann Taylor plans for 2008, initiatives like the "Beauty" line leave me cold. However, Ann Taylor is only trading at 15 times forward earnings, and while that's comparable with some of its rivals, I'm not too surprised that some investors might see it as a reasonably priced investment at the moment.

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Alyce Lomax does not own shares of any of the companies mentioned. The Fool has a disclosure policy.