UPDATE 2-Williams-Sonoma profit tumbles, may face 2009 loss

Tue Mar 24, 2009 9:30am EDT

* Q4 profit tumbled 90 pct, revenue fell nearly 27 pct

* Sees losses in first 3 qtrs of '09, profit in Q4

* Sees loss of 15 cts/shr-profit of 5 cts/shr in '09

* Shares down 2.6 pct in pre-market trade (Adds CEO comments, share activity)

NEW YORK, March 24 (Reuters) - Williams-Sonoma Inc (WSM.N) reported a 90 percent drop in quarterly profit on Tuesday and said it does not expect to earn a profit until the 2009 holiday shopping season, sending its shares down.

The company, which operates the Williams-Sonoma, Pottery Barn and West Elm chains, said the just-ended fourth quarter, ended better than it expected, though "the retail environment overall was very weak."

Net earnings tumbled to $12.2 million, or 12 cents per share, in the quarter, ended Feb. 1, from $124.6 million, or $1.15 per share, a year ago.

Excluding an asset impairment charge and costs associated with closing stores and cutting jobs, profit was 31 cents per share.

The company had forecast that earnings would come in at the low end of a range of 10 cents to 30 cents per share. Excluding items, it forecast a profit of 18 cents to 39 cents per share.

Net revenue fell nearly 27 percent to $1.01 billion, as sales at stores open at least a year dropped 22.3 percent, hurt by the ongoing housing slump and recession.

Williams-Sonoma said it expects losses for the first three quarters of 2009 and a profit in the fourth quarter.

For the full year, the company forecast results to range from a loss of 15 cents per share to a profit of 5 cents per share.

"We are not intending to signal any type of insight into which direction the economy is headed -- but only that if our trends continue as they are today; this is how we would expect the year to unfold," Chief Executive Howard Lester said in a statement.

Williams-Sonoma said its outlook represents a snapshot of how it believes 2009 will look if current sales trends continue and it delivers on plans such as offering more lower-priced items, making its supply chain more efficient, keeping inventories tight, reducing capital spending and renegotiating retail leases where possible.

Williams-Sonoma shares were down 2.6 percent at $10.89 in pre-market trade, after rising as much as 3.2 percent. (Reporting by Martinne Geller; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)

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