Retail Openings Fuel Growth at J. Jill

Direct sales at J. Jill Group Inc. were up 4 percent for the 2002 fiscal year to $221 million, the Quincy, MA-based company reported yesterday, but retail sales had the bigger jump with an increase of 68 percent to $128 million.

The company opened 37 retail stores last year to end the year with 88 stores. Retail represents 37 percent of the total business compared with 27 percent last year.

During the fiscal year, which ended Dec. 28, 2002, net sales increased 21.1 percent to $347.6 million. Net income for the year was $18.9 million, up from $13.1 million in the prior year. Within the direct segment, e-commerce grew to 31 percent of the volume, up from 25 percent last year.

Net sales for the fourth quarter increased 17.6 percent to $107.9 million from $91.7 million in the prior year. Net income for the quarter was $6.2 million, down from $7 million during the fourth quarter last year.

In other news, strong wholesale results fueled record fourth-quarter and fiscal 2002 results at Yankee Candle Co. Inc., South Deerfield, MA.

Q4 wholesale sales rose 19 percent from last year to $65.5 million, the company said yesterday, and total Q4 sales climbed 12 percent to $176.3 million. Retail sales were $110.9 million, up 8.5 percent from the fiscal 2001 fourth quarter. Q4 net income rose 17 percent to $39.2 million, and operating profit jumped 15 percent to $65.7 million.

Total sales for fiscal 2002 were $444.8 million, a 17 percent increase from fiscal 2001. Wholesale was again the strongest performer, with sales rising 22 percent to $204.9 million. Retail sales were $239.9 million, up 13 percent from fiscal 2001. Net income for 2002 was $64 million, up from $43.3 million in fiscal 2001. Operating profit rose 34 percent to $109.8 million.

Yankee Candle's wholesale network consists of 14,000 store locations. The company does not break out sales for its Internet and catalog operations.

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