Escalade, Incorporated (Nasdaq: ESCA – News) announced today that third quarter net sales increased 6.6% to $78,492,000, bringing year to date sales to $168,397,000, a gain of 10.4% over the comparable year ago period. Operating income for the third quarter decreased 4% compared to the same period last year. However, if non-recurring restructuring costs are excluded, operating income for the quarter increased a healthy 10% compared to last year. Due to the non-recurring restructuring costs and loss on impairment of goodwill recorded in the office product business, net income year to date declined 17.9% to $6,881,000, or fifty-three cents a share as compared to sixty-five cents a share last year. On a comparable running twelve months, net income is up 4% this year to $1.03 per share.
Escalade Sports' sales of sporting goods products increased 13% for the quarter to $61,486,000 bringing year to date net sales to $107,795,000, a 17% gain over the prior year's comparable period. For the quarter, the increased sales are primarily the result of earlier shipments. Additionally, the first half was helped by the Bear acquisition and more normal purchasing patterns by some of our customers due to their 2003 year end inventories being at more appropriate levels. Escalade Sports' net income was up 11% for the quarter and is ahead 25% for the year due to the increased sales and the continued reduction of operating expenses. The earlier shipments already experienced indicate a fourth quarter softer than last year, however, we expect the full year for Escalade Sports to be another good year and end ahead of last year.
Interest expense declined 30% for the quarter and 21% year to date as our strong cash flow allowed us to reduce debt $13,908,000 ($1.07 per share) as compared to the end of the third quarter last year. Early in the quarter when our share price dipped, we repurchased 14,450 of our shares for $165,065, an average price of $11.42 per share. We have now used $2,164,192 of the previously authorized $3,000,000 for share repurchases.
We are continuing to actively evaluate acquisition opportunities in the sporting goods industry.