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Home at hit at Kohl’s

Menomonee Falls , Wis. – Home was one of three departments that led sales at Kohl’s during the fourth quarter, and more changes are ahead as the retailer rolls out its Candies and Apt. 9 brands in soft home next month.

“Home was much improved in the quarter as customers noticed the changes we were making to the assortment, both with our good, better and best strategy as well as the increased offerings in the contemporary and updated lifestyles,” said Arlene Meier, chief operating officer, during a call with analysts late yesterday.

Kohl’s closed the books Jan. 28 on another year that provided nearly 20% in profit growth. It also scored margin milestone: a jump in gross margin by about 30 basis points, the highest increase in its history. Executives attributed the boost to more frequent flow of goods and better inventory management.

The 732-store retailer plans to add 80 units this year, part of its plan to pump store count by 500 doors over the next five years. Kohl’s has also acquired 13 Mervyn’s stores in the Pacific Northwest . The company continues to experiment with its urban prototype, and will convert a Macy’s unit in Jersey City , N.J. , to the format this fall.

Fourth quarter profit climbed 17.6% to $374.9 million, or $1.08 per share. Sales rose 14.1% to $4.7 billion, while comps pushed up 3.4%.

For the year, profit moved ahead 19.7% to $842.0 million, or $2.43 per share. Sales rose 14.5% to $13.4 billion, and comps climbed 3.4%.

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