Jones Apparel net loss narrows

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Jones Apparel Group Inc JNY.N, owner of the Nine West and Jones New York brands, reported a narrower quarterly loss on Wednesday as the absence of a large charge offset the impact of a weak selling season.

The company posted a fourth-quarter net loss of $89.8 million, or $1.06 per share, compared with a net loss of $269.5 million, or $2.51 per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, Jones reported a profit of 9 cents per share in the latest quarter.

Analysts on average were expecting 7 cents per share, excluding items, according to Reuters Estimates.

“The fourth quarter proved to be particularly challenging across our operating segments, largely due to the disappointing holiday retail season and the overall macroeconomic environment,” Chief Executive Wesley Card said in a statement.

Revenue fell to $839 million from $1.01 billion a year ago.

The company’s wholesale business suffered from higher-than-planned markdowns. The company’s retail operations saw negative sales trends consistent with the overall climate of weak mall traffic as higher food and fuel costs and economic uncertainty limited people’s shopping trips to the mall.

Sales at the company’s retail stores open at least a year fell 4.8 percent in the fourth quarter.

The company forecast 2008 full-year adjusted earnings per share from continuing operations of $1.25 to $1.50, compared with $1.26 per share in 2007.

The company also said its l.e.i. brand of clothes for young girls would start being sold at Wal-Mart Stores Inc WMT.N locations nationwide for this year's back-to-school season.

Reporting by Martinne Geller; editing by Mark Porter/Maureen Bavdek