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Big Lots Sees Comps, Sales Jump Above Plan in Q4

COLUMBUS, OHIO - Big Lots Inc. beat its fourth quarter comp sales expectations, nearly doubling plan.
     Comparable store sales in the four-week period ended Jan. 28 for stores open at least two years at the beginning of the fiscal year were up 3.4%. Big Lots had expected and increase of 1% to 2%.
     Retail sales in the quarter grew 7.0% to $1.6 billion.
     Fourth quarter sales for the Canadian operations it acquired last year as well as wholesale operations will be announced in March along with full fourth quarter financial results.
     For the 52-week fiscal 2011, retail sales from U.S. operations totaled $5.1 billion, up 3.9%. Comps were tepid, up just 0.1%.
     By merchandise category, during the fourth quarter the seasonal and furniture segments each comped up by low double digits and consumables comped up mid single digits.
     Based on the U.S. sales results and lower-than-expected losses in its Canadian business, Big Lots is raising its consolidated fourth quarter earnings guidance to $1.71 to $1.74 per share. That represents a 17% to 19% improvement over fourth quarter 2010 earnings of $1.46 per diluted share. Previously, the retailer expected fourth quarter EPS of $1.59 to $1.66.
     Additionally, Big Lots also said it now expect earnings of $2.94 to $2.97 per share from continuing operations for fiscal 2011, a 4% to 5% improvement over fiscal 2010 earnings of $2.83 per diluted share.

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