The Finish Line, Inc. saw total sales for its fiscal fourth quarter ended February 28 increase 30.2% to $305.3 million from $234.4 million. Comp store sales increased 19% for the quarter on top of a 10% increase reported in the year-ago period.

FINL said comps were up 18% in February after gaining 16% in January and 22% in December. The gains here were in sharp contrast to preliminary results reported at Foot Locker, which reported that February comp store sales were up in “low single digits”.

Total year sales were also up 30.2% to $985.9 million from $757.2 million in the previous year. Total year comps were up 20% on top of a 3% gain in the previous year, with Footwear comp sales increasing 16%, and Softgoods posting a 35% increase.

Footwear comp sales results increased 14% in the fourth quarter on top of a 7% gain for the year-ago period. Comps in footwear accelerated as the quarter progressed, increasing 13% in December, 14% for January, and posting a 17% increase for February.

FINL said all segments of the footwear business remained strong as the Men's business posted a mid-single digit comp gain, while women's and kid's footwear both posted double-digit comp gains. Men's footwear in Q4 continued to show strong gains in basketball, running and the active casual departments. The women's footwear increases were led by the running and casual departments.

The company said a strategic focus on premium and exclusive products is bearing fruit as unit sales of shoes priced at $100+ doubled in the quarter, pushing the ASP in footwear up 3% for Q4. Classics and Nike performance product also showed continued strength.

Apparel and Accessories comps increased 35% in Q4 on top of an 18% gain for Q4 last year. Comp sales increases in the Softgoods businesses slowed as Q4 progressed, jumping 45% increase in December, 26% increase in January, and a 24% increase in February.

FINL said they still see growth in the license product business “resulting in strong sales increases” in the Men's business and “renewed strength” in the Women's and Kid's apparel business. The gains were driven by strength in Reebok On-Field, Nike Team Sports and Majestic Apparel offerings.

Management said they “continue to anticipate a transition in license from retro and fashion based to more fan-based apparel”. Branded Apparel sales were led by FINL’s private label brand, thanks to an improved inventory position. The direct-to-consumer business more than doubled in the fourth quarter.

FINL increased its comp store sales estimates for Q1 and is now projecting a 5% increase versus the previous forecast of a 3% gain.

The company increased full year EPS guidance to a range of $1.92 to $1.94 from a previous range of $1.82 to $1.86. Full year EPS guidance for Fiscal 2005 is $2.22 to $2.26 per diluted share “based on the sales guidance increase and improved fourth quarter results”.