Cato Profit Ticks Higher in 4Q

Fashion retailer Cato (NYSE:CATO) reported on Thursday a slightly better-than-expected 8% improvement in fourth-quarter profit, helped by higher year-over-year sales.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based company posted net income of $7.9 million, or 27 cents a share, compared with $7.3 million, or 25 cents a share, in the same quarter last year, narrowly ahead of average analyst estimates polled by Thomson Reuters of 26 cents.

Revenue for the seller of women’s apparel and accessories was $224.3 million, up 3% from $127.7 million a year ago, lifted by a 1% improvement in same-store sales.

“Cato delivered record earnings in 2010, the company's third straight year of strong growth, by continuing to offer our customers great fashion and customer service at a great value,” said John Cato, the company’s chief executive. “Weaker than expected sales over the last half of the fourth quarter created higher-than-expected markdowns and negatively impacted the quarter's results.”

Looking ahead, the company believes 2011 will continue to be impacted by economic uncertainty, slow job growth and inflation in food and gas prices. It sees earnings in the range of $2 to $2.11 cents a share.