Finish Line execs fend off analysts

Finish Line Inc. executives this morning refused to comment on the company’s legal tussle with Genesco Inc. during a conference call with analysts to discuss second-quarter results.

CEO Alan H. Cohen got testy at one point when an analyst asked a question related to the Indianapolis company’s $1.5 billion offer to buy Nashville, Tenn.-based Genesco.

“We are in litigation,” Cohen said, in response to another question about the merger. “That’s not by our choice. We have to not make comments about the litigation or the transaction.”

Earlier this month, Genesco sued to try to force Finish Line to close the acquisition. Finish Line retorted by charging that Genesco, which owns Journeys and Hat World, is withholding financial information.

Cohen said comparable store sales for men’s and women’s shoes are down for Finish Line, but demand still is strong for premium products. He also cited double-digit growth for sales on and The Finish Line catalog.

In response to a question about New York-based competitor Foot Locker closing stores, Cohen said Finish Line also should be closing stores. He said there is too much retail square footage devoted to athletic apparel.

Finish Line yesterday reported that it lost $1.8 million in the second quarter ended Sept. 1. The loss was smaller than the $3.9 million setback in its first fiscal quarter, but disappointing compared to the $9.2 million it earned in the same quarter last year.

Sales increased 1.3 percent, to $343 million. Comparable-store sales dipped 4.7 percent, an improvement from a 6.6-percent decline in the first quarter.

“While we still have some work to do, I’m upbeat about where The Finish Line is heading,” Cohen said.

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