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LNT hunting for chief merchant, 4Q numbers beat the Street

CLIFTON, N.J. — Linens ’n Things is interviewing for a chief merchandising officer and should have someone in place during the second quarter, executives said during the company’s fourth quarter conference call today.

Also during the call, executives laid out merchandising initiatives for the year that will include more direct sourcing, more vendor consolidation, and a more aggressive approach toward faster-turning fashion and trend-right merchandise as well as further sku reduction.

"Linens ’n Things has a strong product offering, but our assortments are not consistently focused on our target core customer, the home enthusiast," said Jack Moore, who joined the company six months ago as president/chief operating officer. "One of my greatest passions is to get the company focused on trend merchandising. In a large industry where we compete with many retailers there is a need to position ourselves to be more fashion-forward."

The company also plans to add at least two new brands by the third quarter, one on each side of the business.

Linens ’n Things also reported its quarterly numbers today.

Breezing past Wall Street expectations, the company reported a fourth-quarter profit before a one-time accounting charge of $47 million, modestly ahead of a year-before profit of $46 million.

But pinched by the $2 million accounting charge stemming from the way the retailer accounts for vendor allowances, net income subsided modestly, by 2.3 percent, to $45 million.

Still, looked at with or without the accounting charge, earnings per share exceeded Wall Street expectations. Wall Street analysts had been expecting a profit of 98 cents per share, but the retailer delivered a profit of $1.03, excluding the accounting charge; and a 99 cents per-share profit even after taking the hit.

Sales in the Christmas quarter jumped 11.1 percent, to $875.7 million from $788.3 million last year. Same-store sales improved 2.7 percent.

Cheered by the news, Wall Street pushed the retailer's stock sharply higher in early trading on the NYSE.

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