Financial Reports: Blair, PC Connection, NEBS, NBTY

Blair’s 1Q Income Drops 91%

First-quarter net sales at apparel and home goods cataloger Blair Corp. (Amex: BL) increased slightly, to $137.0 million for the three months ended March 31 from $135.3 million last year. That’s the good news.

The not-so-good news? Net income plunged 91%, to $500,189 from $5.6 million last year. The reduction in net income was primarily attributable to increased cost of goods sold and advertising expenses, which rose 13% resulting from an increase in mailings to customers and prospects.

Warren, PA-based Blair’s e-commerce channel generated $16 million in gross sales in the quarter compared with $13 million a year ago.

“Blair achieved a slight increase in sales and market share despite difficult current economic conditions and a significant downturn in the industry. Our net income results were affected by the general economic weakness and slowdown in consumer spending, which has impacted the retail and direct marketing industries,” Bryan J. Flanagan, senior vice president/chief financial officer, said in a statement.

PC Connection Profitable on MoreDirect Gains Computer reseller PC Connection enjoyed a 20% growth in first-quarter net sales. Even better, it reversed last year’s first-quarter loss.

For the three months ended March 31, the company posted net income of $1.6 million on sales of $283.5 million. For the first quarter of 2002, PC Connection had lost $2.1 million on sales of $237.1 million.

The company’s most recent acquisition, government supplier MoreDirect, reported $52.3 million in net sales for the first quarter of 2003. PC Connection acquired MoreDirect in April 2002; its sales were not included included in the cataloger’s revenue from the first quarter of 2002.

Net sales for the small- and midsize business (SMB) segment million declined 5% from the first quarter of 2002, to $178.6 million. Sales productivity for the SMB segment improved by 14.7%, however, to $2.2 million per sales representative.

U.S. Direct Marketing Sales Down Slightly at NEBS Revenue at New England Business Service (NYSE: NEB) for its fiscal third quarter, ended March 29, was $127.3 million. That’s down 4% from $132.9 million last year. But net income for the Groton, MA-based marketer rose to $5.9 million from $4.6 million. Earnings included a $1.0 million pretax gain from the sale of NEBS’s interest in Advantage Payroll Services.

U.S. direct marketing revenue decreased 6%, to $62.6 million from $66.5 million last year. Profits from direct marketing fell 4%, to $13.1 million from $13.7 million.

NBTY Suffers from Ephedra Aftereffects Bohemia, NY-based NBTY (NasdaqNM: NBTY), a manufacturer/marketer of vitamins and supplements, posted a 10% increase in net sales for its fiscal second quarter, to $278 million for the three months ended March 31.

Net income slid 23%, however, to $20 million from $26 million last year. Earnings were hurt by a previously announced one-time charge of $6 million reflecting NBTY’s March 15 discontinuance of sales of products containing ephedra.

Revenue from the company’s Puritan’s Pride catalog and Web operations, decreased 7%, to $52 million from $56 million. Puritan Pride’s advertising expenses for the quarter increased $3 million. The company noted that the timing of promotional catalog mailings was not comparable to last year’s: The three-for-one sales catalog that ran from January through March last year will be running from March through May this year and is expected to generate a comparable increase in sales for the third quarter.

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