* Same-store sales rose 27 percent at kate spade
* CEO blames merchandising, “other issues” for weak Juicy performance
* Same-store sales fell 2 percent at Juicy Couture
* Shares rise 12 percent (Adds analyst comments, details on Juicy)
Jan 14 (Reuters) - Strong sales of kate spade handbags and shoes gave a boost to fashion apparel and accessories maker and retailer Fifth & Pacific Cos Inc during the fourth quarter, offsetting continued weakness at its once-popular Juicy Couture brand.
Shares of the company formerly known as Liz Claiborne Inc rose as much as 12 percent Monday to their highest level since October 2008.
Known for its leather handbags that can costs hundreds of dollars, kate spade has become the growth driver for Fifth & Pacific while the company has struggled to reignite sales at Juicy Couture, once known for its velour track suits with an urban look.
The kate spade brand is typically written with lowercase letters.
For the fourth quarter, same-store sales rose 27 percent at kate spade and rose 3 percent at Lucky Brand, the company’s jeans label. Same-store sales fell 2 percent at Juicy Couture, according to preliminary results.
“At this point in time, Juicy is not that important,” said analyst Jim Chartier of Monness, Crespi, Hardt & Co.
The analyst said investors own the stock for kate spade and attribute a very low valuation to Juicy. “Kate spade will eclipse Juicy next year in sales,” he said.
In the past several years, the company has sold off many of its brands, including Liz Claiborne, to lessen its debt load and focus on brands where it sees the most potential.
Chief Executive William McComb said he was optimistic that kate spade and Lucky would show sizeable growth in 2013.
For 2012, the company posted sales of $1.5 billion, in line with the average analyst estimate of $1.48 billion estimate compiled by Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Juicy has struggled to find favor again with U.S. shoppers. The company has brought in new management, including hiring Paul Blum as Chief Executive for the brand in December 2012. Blum headed Kenneth Cole before he joined Juicy.
McComb said merchandising and “other issues” at Juicy Couture weighed on the company’s performance and said fixes at its Juicy Couture brand would come late this year and in 2014.
Analyst Chartier said he would give the team at Juicy a year before expecting a turnaround.
The company said it expects earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization of $63 million to $68 million for the fourth quarter and $100 million to $105 million for the full year, which it said is at the low end of its forecast.
For 2013, the company forecast EBITDA of $120 million to $150 million, and same-store sales growth at a low teens percentage rate for kate spade and mid- to high-single-digit rate for Lucky Brand. For Juicy Couture, it said same-store sales should be flat to slightly negative.
Shares of the company were up $1.39 at $14.23 Monday morning on the New York Stock Exchange, and reached as high as $14.41 earlier in the session. (Reporting by Nivedita Bhattacharjee in Chicago and Martinne Geller in New York; editing by John Wallace, Kenneth Barry, Brad Dorfman and Nick Zieminski)