Financial reports: J. Jill, Musician’s Friend

Double-digit top- and bottom-line increases for J. Jill

Despite a 17% decline in catalog productivity, J. Jill Group (Nasdaq: JILL) reported a 21% rise in annual sales and a 44% jump in net income. For the year ended Dec. 28, the women’s apparel/retailer had net income of $18.9 million on sales of $347.6 million. For 2001, it netted $13.1 million on $287.0 million in revenue. The company blamed the disappointing per-catalog performance on lower-than-expected results from its fall best-seller catalog and increased circulation.

Fourth-quarter sales rose nearly 18%, to $107.9 million from $91.7 million for the fourth quarter of 2001. But income fell to $6.2 million from $7.0 million a year earlier.

Although productivity within the catalog segment declined, catalog and online sales increased 4% last year, to $220.6 million from $212.2 million. E-commerce accounted for 31% of 2002’s direct sales, up from 25% of the direct sales the previous year.

Retail sales per square foot fell 13% last year, but the Quincy, MA-based company opened 37 stores, bringing its total to 88 stores in 30 states.

Looking ahead J. Jill expects sales to increase 20% this year. It projects first-quarter sales to hit $83.0 million-$85.0 million and earnings per diluted share of $0.03-$0.05.

Musician’s Friend parent co. breaks $1 billion in sales The direct response division of Westlake Village, CA-based Guitar Center (Nasdaq: GTRC) increased sales 24% last year, to $208.7 million from $168.5 million for 2001. The direct division includes cataloger Musician’s Friend and, which it bought at auction in November.

Total net revenue for the cataloger/retailer of musical instruments surpassed $1 billion for the first time. Sales were $1.1 billion, up 16% from $949.3 million in 2001. Net income rose 49%, to $25.3 million from $17.0 million.