Financial reports: J. Jill, Amazon

Retail stores lead sales growth at J. Jill

Women’s apparel cataloger/retailer J. Jill Group (Nasdaq: JILL) enjoyed a 22% increase in third-quarter sales and a 29% rise in net income for the same period. For the three months ended Sept. 28, the company reported net income of $3.6 million on sales of $80.0 million. During the quarter, J. Jill incurred a $1 million one-time charge for costs related to a potential strategic acquisition that the company abandoned. For the third quarter of last year, it had net income of $2.8 million on $65.8 million in revenue.

Catalog and Internet sales increased 5%, to $50.4 million from $47.8 million last year, as a result of higher circulation. Retail sales increased 64%, to $29.8 million from $18.2 million, mainly from new store openings. Since the beginning of the year the Quincy, MA-based company has opened 30 stores. It expects to have 88 stores open by year’s end.

For the fourth quarter, J. Jill is projecting sales of $106.0 million-$110.0 million and earnings per diluted share of $0.41-$0.43. For fiscal 2002 the company expects sales of $346.0 million-$350.0 million and earnings per diluted share of $1.05-$1.07, a 50% increase over the prior year’s $0.70.

Amazon posts narrower loss Internet behemoth Amazon.com (NasdaqNM: AMZN) cut its third-quarter net loss to $35 million, less than one-quarter of the $170 million it lost during the third quarter of last year. Revenue for the same period rose 33%, to $851.3 million from $639.3 million a year earlier. The general merchandiser had projected sales of $780 million-$830 million for the quarter. It credited aggressive price cutting and free-shipping promotions with fueling the growth, though it did note that the free shipping was costly.

The books, music, and DVD/video segment of the business showed a 17% sales increase, but Seattle-based Amazon said it was seeing more of a contribution from other areas of its site, such as electronics and home and garden products. Collective sales from its U.K., German, French, and Japanese sites grew 90% during the quarter, with each individual site’s sales increasing at least 60%.

Amazon also said it expected to report fourth-quarter revenue of $1.33 billion-$1.44 billion, well above the average analyst estimate of about $1.25 billion. It said it expected to report a fourth-quarter operating profit of $70 million-$95 million.

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