A fourth-quarter earnings increase of 61 percent over 1996 was not enough to buffer cataloger Spiegel Inc. from a net loss of $33 million, or $0.28 per share, for the fiscal year ended Jan. 3. Total revenues increased 1 percent to $3.1 billion.
Spiegel, Downers Grove, IL, earned $31.9 million or $0.3 per share in the fourth quarter on slightly higher total revenues of $1.1 billion. Comparable-store sales for the company's Eddie Bauer subsidiary declined 8 percent for the quarter and 3 percent for the year. Gross profit margin declined 4.1 percent due to a higher level of markdowns in the quarter for the Eddie Bauer and Spiegel Catalog divisions.
“Spiegel Catalog's difficulties were the single most significant factor in our company's performance,'' said Spiegel CFO James Sievers. “While Eddie Bauer experienced another year of profitability, lower-than-expected sales in Eddie Bauer's high-volume fourth quarter negatively affected our overall results.''
The Spiegel Group's catalog businesses saw a 9.1 percent decline in net sales to $1.5 billion while its retail stores showed a 9.5 percent increase to $1.4 billion. Spiegel opened 65 Eddie Bauer stores in 1997, increasing its retail base to 508 stores.