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Finish Line got strong start to holiday season

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The holiday shopping season is shaping up to be a solid one for The Finish Line Inc.

During the three-week period ended Dec. 18, the Indianapolis-based athletic apparel retailer's sales in stores open at least a year increased 7 percent from the same time last year. That figure is a key gauge of a retailer’s financial health because it excludes revenue from stores that open or close during the year.

“We’re very pleased with the start of the holiday shopping season,” Chief Financial Officer Ed Wilhelm said Wednesday after the company released its quarterly results.

Online sales are particularly strong, increasing 61 percent for Finish Line’s third fiscal quarter ended Nov. 26.

Total same-store sales for the third quarter rose 7.7 percent, compared with 10.1 percent for the same period in 2010.

Finish Line’s quarterly profit increased 35 percent, to $5.5 million, or 11 cents per share, from $4.1 million, or 8 cents per share, in the same quarter a year ago. Analysts had expected earnings of 11 cents a share, according to Thomson Reuters.

Revenue rose 8.1 percent, to $282 million.

Finish Line operates 646 stores in malls throughout the United States and 19 Running Company shops. Finish Line announced that it was acquiring the Running Company chain in September for $8.5 million.

Company shares opened Thursday morning at $20.70 each. The stock is up 20 percent this year.

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