In its last quarterly income statement before changing its name to Caleres, the parent company of Famous Footwear, Naturalizer, Rykä and other brands reported better than expected sales and gross margins for the 13 weeks ended May 2. The group's net income rose by 25 percent to $19,261,000 on 1.9 percent higher consolidated revenues of $602.3 million.

The Famous Footwear chain recorded a sales decline of 1.8 percent to $360.0 million, but excluding Shoe.com, the web store sold to Roger Hardy last December (see the next article), it booked a 1.5 percent increase in the quarter. Its gross margin expanded by 1.6 percentage points to 46.7 percent, the operating margin went up by 0.5 percentage points to 7.8 percent, and sales per square foot increased by nearly 3 percent to $216.

On a comparable store basis, the chain's sales rose by 3.1 percent in spite of the late start of the spring season. Canvas shoes performed particularly well, along with residual inventories of boots and spring sandals. The management sees the demand for sandals and boots will persist in the second half, with more emphasis on booties than on longer boots.

Famous Footwear is on track to open 50 stores and close 50 in the course of this year. It closed 13 and opened 15 during the first quarter.

The Brand Porfolio segment of Brown Shoe Co. raised its sales by 7.9 percent to $242.3 million in the quarter, but operating earnings were down slightly to $11,060,000. There was growth in sales for every brand except for Franco Sardo. The Healthy Living group of brands went up by 9.1 percent and the Contemporary Fashion group by 4.9 percent.

Looking at the full financial year, the management has improved its forecast for net earnings per share, but sales are still expected to range between $2.61 billion and $2.63 billion.