The Finish Line Inc. barely eked into the black in its fiscal third quarter, but even that exceeded analysts’ expectations.
Excluding a one-time tax benefit tied to its aborted merger with Genesco Inc., the Indianapolis-based athletic apparel retailer on Tuesday reported a $16,000 profit from continuing operations, compared to a loss of $6.5 million in the same period last year.
Analysts predicted a loss of 9 cents per share in the quarter ended Nov. 28.
Sales at stores open at least a year—a key retail measure—increased 1.7 percent; they dropped 3.3 percent in the year-ago period. Comparable-store sales climbed another 4.9 percent from Nov. 29 to Dec. 20, the company said.
Total net sales were down 0.2 percent, from $240.6 million a year ago to $240.1 million in the third quarter of 2009.
The company also managed to build its balance sheet. The Finish Line said it ended the period with no interest-bearing debt and $149.2 million in cash and cash equivalents—up from $55.1 million a year ago.
“We continue to display an ability to perform well and improve our business in what remains a cautious consumer environment,” CEO Glenn Lyon said in a prepared statement. “In the third quarter, we effectively controlled expenses, managed inventories and improved store execution.”