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Home Depot Q4 Sales, Net Rise

Atlanta — An enhanced merchandising assortment and a significant investment in technology during its fiscal fourth quarter helped Home Depot turn around the sliding sales and earnings recorded a year earlier.

Sales climbed 14.5 percent in the three months, ended Feb. 1, hitting $15.1 billion, up from the $13.2 billion reported in the year-ago period, which was a 2 percent dip. Comp-store sales increased 7.6 percent, compared with a negative 6 percent drop in the same three months a year ago.

Net earnings soared 39 percent, reaching $951 million, compared with the year-earlier $686 million, which was down from $710 million in the fourth quarter of the previous year.

‘We are enhancing the customer shopping experience and meeting customer aspirations by adding distinctive and innovative merchandise,’ said Bob Nardelli, chairman/CEO. ‘This translated into strong results across North America.’

Home Depot reported higher average sales per customer transaction in its fourth quarter, rising to $50.62 from $47.32, with customer transactions increasing 7.1 percent in the three months to 287 million, from 268 million. For the 12 months, average sale per transaction rose to $51.15 — highest in company history — from $49.43, while customer transactions jumped 7.3 percent to 1.3 billion, from 1.2 billion.

‘Home Depot is making solid progress in the continuing transformation of our company,’ said Carol Tome, executive vice president/CFO. ‘We are gaining operating efficiencies through significant investment in technology and other initiatives. … We nearly doubled our investment in technology and store modernization in 2003 and will spend $1.5 billion in store modernization and technology in fiscal 2004. We plan to open 175 new stores this year.’

For the 12 months, sales jumped 11.3 percent, reaching $64.8 billion, up from $58.2 billion in the previous year. Comps increased 3.8 percent.

Net earnings for the 12 months hit $4.3 billion, compared with $3.7 billion year-on-year.

Looking ahead, Home Depot sales are expected to grow 9 percent to 12 percent in the current fiscal year.