Stage Stores, Inc. reported that its total sales for the four week January period ended Jan. 30, 2010 decreased 10.2% to $67 million from $75 million in the prior year four week period ended Jan. 31, 2009. Comparable store sales decreased 11.3% this year versus a decrease of 13.1% last year.
Andy Hall, president and CEO, commented, January sales were impacted by lower clearance inventory and inclement weather. However, with sales for the fourth quarter within our guidance range and strong merchandise margins, we expect to report fourth quarter earnings that exceed last years $0.67 per diluted share. Our merchandise margins benefitted from reduced clearance levels and improved physical inventory results. As a result, we expect to exceed the high end of our earnings guidance ranges for the fourth quarter and full year of $0.66 and $0.69 per diluted share, respectively.
We ended the fiscal year with a strong balance sheet, no borrowings on our $250 million revolving credit facility and with inventory levels and content in great shape. Our disciplined approach of managing inventories, expenses and capital has resulted in a much stronger company poised for the challenges and opportunities that 2010 will bring, Mr. Hall concluded.