Foot Locker 4Q Profit Widens on Strong Demand

Foot Locker (NYSE:FL) revealed late Wednesday a stronger-than-expected 148% improvement in fourth-quarter profit, led by stronger sales in its established stores and tighter costs.

The New York-based athletic footwear and apparel retailer posted net income of $57 million, or 36 cents a share, compared with $23 million, or 14 cents a share, in the same quarter last year.

Excluding one-time charges, the company earned 39 cents a share, ahead of average analyst estimates polled by Thomson Reuters of 37 cents. Revenue was up 5.1% to $1.39 billion, narrowly beating the Street’s view of $1.38 billion.

“The significant increase in our fourth quarter net income resulted from strong comparable-store sales growth and gross margin rate expansion, as well as effective expense management,” Foot Locker CEO Ken Hicks said in a statement.

Comparable store sales climbed 7.3% during the period. Foot Locker's merchandise inventory was $1.06 billion at the close of 2010, up 2.1% from the end of last year.

Foot Locker, which bought back $13.7 million worth of its shares last quarter, increased its dividend by 10% last month. The company opened 43 stores during the year, relocated 171 and closed 117.

“We are very encouraged with the ongoing improvement in our operating performance, as the initial steps we are taking in executing our new strategic plan have led to positive strides toward achieving our long-term financial objectives,” Hicks said.

Heading into 2011, the retailer said it will focus on the further implementation of its strategic initiatives.