Retailers, agencies buck the dismal earnings trends

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Though 2001 couldn't end quickly enough for some marketers, agencies and media companies, others performed reasonably well, as last week's earnings results showed.

Retailers at the low- and high-ends reported fourth-quarter and year-end increases in net income and revenue. Wal-Mart Stores net income increased 9.2% for period ended Jan. 31, 2002 up 6% from the prior-year period. Revenue for the quarter rose 13.5% to $64.21 billion and for the year, 18.8% to $218 billion. At stores open for more than a year, revenue increased 6.9% in the quarter.

Nordstrom reported net income of $50.7 million for the quarter ended Jan. 31, nearly double the $27 million net income reported in the year-ago quarter. Revenues for the quarter were nearly flat at $1.63 billion vs. $1.66 billion a year ago.

Even at struggling retailer J.C. Penney Co., results were favorable. The company showed fourth-quarter net income was $95 million vs. a year-ago loss of $580 million.

RadioShack Corp. saw net income drop 76% in the quarter mostly due to slow sales.

London-based Diageo Corp. reported a 3.2% rise in pre-tax profits to $1.75 billion for the six months ended Dec. 31, 2001, fueled by strong sales of its Smirnoff Ice. At the company's Burger King unit, same-store sales rose 1% but operating profit dropped 29%.

Despite 2001's advertising recession, agency holding companies Omnicom Group and WPP Group reported profit increases for the year. Lower costs and new business pushed Omnicom's fourth-quarter net income up 15% to $164.1 million from $142.2 million in the year-ago period. For the year ended Dec. 31, net income rose 16% to $503.1 million on revenue of $6.8 billion, up from net income of $435 million on revenue of $6.1 billion in 2000. Management expects to meet its goal of 10% growth in earnings and revenue for 2002.

Acquisitions boosted WPP's revenue 35% to $5.79 billion in the year ended Dec. 31, up from $4.29 billion for the year-ago period. Excluding acquisitions, revenue declined 3%. Net income for the London-based agency holding company rose 11% for the year to $390 million.

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