Jos. A. Bank profit surges


Pointing to brisk sales for its casual business, Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. reported a 129 percent increase in first-quarter earnings yesterday.

The Hampstead-based men's retailer posted earnings per share of 16 cents a share for the quarter that ended April 29, compared with 7 cents reported for the first quarter last year.

Sales increased to $46,408,000, up 6.4 percent, from $43,607,000 in the corresponding quarter last year. The company's stock closed at $4.94 a share, down 31 cents. The results continue a turnaround that began in late 1999, when the upscale clothier changed management and tried to boost its declining suit sales with more casual business.

The strategy seems to be working, said Kenneth Gassman, a retail analyst with Davenport & Co. who tracks the company."It looks like things are finally going Joseph Bank's way," Gassman said. "They're now a target for the up-market male customer whose businesses are growing casual rapidly."

The earnings come on the heels of Jos. A Bank's plan to open 75 to 100 new stores by 2003. By the end of this year, the clothier will have opened new stores in New Jersey, Illinois, Florida, Connecticut, Georgia and Virginia.

Gassman said the company's plan to roll out more stores is another sign of its momentum. He credited the company with helping men interpret "corporate casual" - a term that has flummoxed everyone from investment bankers to attorneys.

Robert N. Wildrick, Jos. A. Bank's chief executive officer, considers it part of the company mission to take the guesswork out of casual office dress. Jos. A. Bank is publishing a book on appropriate casual office-wear, which it will distribute to 5,000 customers in the next few weeks. Wildrick has also developed a training tape for corporate clients to guide them on dressing casual."Most manufacturers haven't given men much direction," said Wildrick, who says a pair of khakis and a golf shirt don't make the cut. Corporate casual, in Wildrick's definition, is a jacket-based ensemble, where clothes are color-coordinated and men can mix and match pants and jackets. Suits, however, are still a men's wardrobe staple, in part thanks to game-show host Regis Philbin and his dark-shirt, light-tie combinations."The suit is not dead," said Wildrick. "The Regis look is one of the hottest looks right now."

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