Cato reports drop in sales but higher earnings

Charlotte-based Cato Corp. reported first quarter earnings that were up from a year ago even as sales fell slightly.

For the quarter that ended May 2, the fashion retailer reported income of $31.1 million, or $1.11 per share, up from $30 million, or $1.04 a share, in the first quarter of 2014.

Sales decreased to $281.6 million during the first quarter from $282.5 million a year ago. For Cato stores open at least one year, sales declined 3 percent.

John Cato, the company’s chairman, president and CEO, in a statement attributed the earnings rise to “lower compensation expenses” and a “favorable tax adjustment.”

The company had previously said it expected first quarter same-store sales would be down 3 to 4 percent because of adverse weather, though its first-quarter earnings proved higher than management had anticipated.

Cato also said in March that the start of 2015 was “difficult,” and the rest of 2015 “may continue to be challenging.”

The company said for the second quarter, same-store sales will be down 2 percent or flat and earnings per share will be in the range of 54 cents to 57 cents. For the year, earnings per share will range from $2.10 to $2.23.

In the first quarter, Cato opened eight stores and closed two. As of May 2, the retailer operated 1,352 stores in 32 states, up from 1,324 stores in the same period last year. The company operates under three concepts: Cato, Versona and It’s Fashion.

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