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Sears profit more than doubles in 4Q

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[February 23, 2010]  CHICAGO (AP) -- Kmart shoppers and cost-cutting helped Sears Holdings Corp. boost its profit as the retailer posted its best quarterly profit in three years, the department store chain said Tuesday.

HardwareLed by financier Chairman Edward Lampert, Sears has spent years struggling as customers skipped out on its brands for competitors.

But in the fall, business began to turn around at its Kmart discount chain when sales at those stores rose for the first time since 2002 as deal-seeking shoppers returned to stores.

The owner of Sears and Kmart says it earned $430 million, or $3.74 per share, during the fourth quarter. That's up from a profit of $190 million, or $1.55 per share, during the same period last year. Excluding one-time items, the company's fourth-quarter profit amounted to $3.69 per share.

Revenue for the three months that ended Jan. 30 dipped less than 1 percent to $13.25 billion.

Analysts surveyed by Thomson Reuters expected the merchant to earn $3.54 per share on revenue of $12.90 billion.

Those estimates typically exclude one-time items.

Sales in stores open at least a year grew again in the fourth quarter, climbing 1.7 percent at the chain, as shoppers bought toys and products for their home. That's a key measure for retailers because it excludes the effects of newly opened stores.

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At the same time, the retailer worked to control expenses and amped up its promotions.

"Our improved performance is especially encouraging given the challenging economic environment, particularly related to big-ticket items," W. Bruce Johnson, Sears Holdings' interim CEO and president, said in a statement.

Sears hasn't had such a strong quarter since the fourth quarter of 2006, when it earned $820 million.

Sears is based in Hoffman Estates.

[Associated Press; By ASHLEY M. HEHER]

Copyright 2010 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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