American Eagle fourth-quarter earnings miss analyst expectations

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American Eagle Outfitters reported this morning that fourth-quarter earnings will come in on the low end of the South Side teen clothing retailer’s earlier projections.

Sales in established stores — excluding those opened in the past year — fell 7 percent during the nine-week period that ended Jan. 4. Total sales during that period dropped 2 percent to $882 million, compared to $904 million during the same period a year ago.

"Following a solid Thanksgiving weekend, traffic and sales through Christmas week were on the low end of our expectations, and the retail environment was highly promotional, pressuring margins and earnings per share," CEO Robert Hanson said in a prepared statement.

Discounts, common in the malls this December, typically cut into profit.

The company had predicted earnings per share in the quarter would be in the range of 26 to 30 cents per share. Now it expects to earn 26 cents per share.

Analysts polled by Thomson Financial had been looking, on average, for 29 cents per share.

The fourth quarter will also include January results, and Mr. Hanson said post-holiday sales are on track.

"Our post-Christmas clearance event is meeting our expectations and we expect to end the year with inventories on plan," he said. "We are intensely focused on making fundamental improvements to our business as we adapt to a fast-changing retail landscape."

American Eagle will report full quarterly and fiscal year results on March 11.

Teresa F. Lindeman: or 412-263-2018.

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