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Sandy Cleanup Brings Bright Spot For Home- Improvement Chains

NEW YORK — The Home Depot and Lowe’s both reported higher fourth-quarter sales that were supported by Superstorm Sandy-related repairs.

The Home Depot reported a double-digit gain in net sales, higher comp-store sales and greater net earnings in its fiscal fourth quarter, ended Feb. 3, 2013. Sales for the quarter were $18.2 billion, a 13.9 percent increase from the prior year’s fourth quarter. Comp-store sales increased 7 percent, and comp sales for U.S. stores were up 7.1 percent during the quarter.

Home Depot clarified that the fourth quarter of fiscal 2012 consisted of 14 weeks compared with 13 weeks for the prior year. The 14th week added approximately $1.2 billion in sales for the quarter and the year. Excluding the 14th week, fourth-quarter sales increased by 6.3 percent compared with the fourth quarter of fiscal 2011. The additional week is not included in comp-store sales results for the quarter or the year.

Net earnings for the fourth quarter were $1 billion, compared with net earnings of $774 million in the prior year’s fourth quarter.

These results reflect “a favorable adjustment” to a previously announced China store closing charge of approximately $20 million, the retailer said.

For its fiscal year sales were $74.8 billion, an increase of 6.2 percent from fiscal 2011. Total company comp-store sales for the year increased 4.6 percent, and comp sales for U.S. stores were 4.9 percent for the year. Excluding the 53rd week, sales for fiscal 2012 increased by 4.5 percent from fiscal 2011.

Net earnings for the year were up 31.9 percent to $1.02 billion for the year.

In a statement, Frank Blake, chairman and CEO, said, “We ended the year with a strong performance as our business benefited from a continued recovery in the housing market coupled with sales related to repairs in the areas impacted by Hurricane Sandy.”

Lowe’s reported slightly lower net earnings and net sales, but higher comp-store sales in its fiscal fourth quarter, ended Feb. 1.

Net earnings were $288 million in the quarter, compared with $322 million year on year. Net sales for the fourth quarter decreased 5 percent to $11 billion, from $11.6 billion in the fourth quarter of 2011.

Comp-store sales for the fourth quarter of 2012 increased 1.9 percent on a consolidated basis as well as for the U.S. business.

Lowe’s fiscal year ends on the Friday nearest the end of January; therefore, the fourth quarter and fiscal year 2011 included an extra week when compared with 2012.

Robert A. Niblock, Lowe’s chairman, president and CEO, said “Our results are a testament to the team’s success in driving more balanced performance across the quarter, our response to the demand created by recovery efforts in the wake of Superstorm Sandy, and the momentum we’re creating with our initiatives.”

For the fiscal year, net sales were $50.5 billion, up from the prior year’s $50.2 billion, and net earnings were $1.96 billion, up from the prior year’s $1.84 billion. Comp-store sales increased 1.4 percent for the fiscal year, while comp-store sales for the U.S. business increased 1.5 percent.