Original Source: FD (FAIR DISCLOSURE) WIRE
OPERATOR: Good day, ladies and gentlemen, and welcome to the Christopher & Banks fourth quarter fiscal 2007 conference call. At this time, all participants are in a listen-only mode. Following the presentation, we will conduct a question and answer session. [OPERATOR INSTRUCTIONS] It is now my pleasure to introduce Joe Teklits. Please go ahead, sir.
JOE TEKLITS, IR, CHRISTOPHER & BANKS: Hi, everybody. Sorry for the technical difficulties, and good afternoon. Thank you, for joining us to discuss Christopher & Banks fourth quarter and full year fiscal 2007 conference results.
Joining us on the call are Matthew Dillon, President, and Chief Executive Officer, Andy Moller, Chief Financial Officer and Monica Dahl, Chief Operating Officer. After management has made their formal remarks, we will open the call up to questions and answers.
Of course, before we begin I would like to remind you that some of the comments made on the conference call either prepared remarks or in response to your questions may contain forward-looking statements that are made pursuant to the Safe Harbor Provisions of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such information is subject to risks and uncertainties that could cause actual results to differ materially from such statements as described in the press release and Christopher & Banks most recent annual report on Form 10-K filed with the SEC. The information contained in this conference call is accurate only as of the date discussed. Investors should not assume statements made in the conference call remain operative at a later time. Finally, Christopher & Banks Corporation undertakes no obligation to update any information discussed in this conference call.
Now I would like to turn the call over to Matthew Dillon, President and CEO of Christopher & Banks.
MATTHEW DILLON, PRESIDENT, CEO, CHRISTOPHER & BANKS: Thanks, Joe. Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you, for joining us today for Christopher & Banks fourth quarter and year-end conference call. With me today is Monica Dahl, the Company's Chief Operating Officer, and Andy Moller, Chief Financial Officer. I would like to begin today's call with a brief overview of Christopher & Banks' fourth quarter performance, which ended on March 3, 2007.
For the fourth quarter, Christopher & Banks net sales reached 134 million versus 126.6 million the prior year reflecting a 6% increase. Earnings per diluted share were $0.05 versus last year's $0.18.
As with many of our competitors in the Missy Space, Christopher & Banks had a very challenging fourth quarter, reduced traffic, erratic weather patterns and merchandising miss steps resulted in a much weaker than planned performance. Comp store sales declined 7% for this period. However, in our sun belt store base we did experience a mid-single digit comp increase. We aggressively managed through this fourth quarter softness with a robust and successful merchandise liquidation process. This has allowed us to enter the current spring season with clean and current inventory levels of which less than 1% was over 120 days old, which is similar to last year's percentage.
While the fourth quarter left us with less than desirable results, I firmly believe we emerged as a smarter and stronger company. We demonstrated an ability to quickly react and respond to our errors as we immediately began taking the steps to liquidate the inventory that could have hampered early spring results had we been slower to respond. Simultaneously, we began planning the significant strategic steps necessary to plan next year's late fall and holiday merchandising, delivery flow cadence and new marketing plans.
Our objective for 2007 is to build on the progress we made in 2006 while learning and strategizing new plans from our fourth quarter's disappointment. I am confident this process will significantly improve next year's results.
Now to speak to our full year results. While a challenging fourth quarter negatively impacted us, it is important to note Christopher & Banks had a record breaking first half year performance from both a sales and earnings perspective. For the full year, Christopher & Banks reached net sales of 547 million, a 12% increase over last year. Earnings per diluted share rose 6% to $0.89 versus $0.84 the year prior.
For the full year, comp store sales increased 1% versus a 1% comp store increase last year. We finished the year with a 10% increase in our cash and short-term investment position. This number is 102 million versus last year's balance of 92 million.
Our store expansion continued successfully executed among our three concepts. We opened 78 new stores this past year, 40 C. J. Banks, 22 Christopher & Banks, 16 Acorn stores, and ended the year with 778 versus 705 in fiscal '06. Since the beginning of our current fiscal year we have opened 11 stores under our three divisions. This brings our current store base to 788 versus 714 at the same time last year reflecting a 10% increase. Monica will elaborate on our real estate expansion plans later in the call.
I would now like to turn to a brief commentary on fourth quarter merchandise performance and then to follow, Spring Merchandise selling trends. Weaknesses in the categories of Sweaters and Fashion Knit Tops hurt us the most during the fourth quarter. Simultaneously we experienced mixed results in our Denim classification and comparably strong performance in our Jacket and Woven Top business.
In general, as I have stated previously, our overall fourth quarter assortments were off the mark in terms of being overly embellished, dressy, and out of touch with our core customers who require versatility. Sweaters, which were significant soft spot, represented 33% of sales this year versus 42% the year prior. I am pleased to say March selling was much better with the completion of our new spring floor set and the return of more temperate weather during the month. Many of the same sales trends we enjoyed last year returned, most notably our Jacket and Shirt business. Capri's and other length variations did well in Bottoms, and Printed Skirts also sold nicely. Denim business is healthy again after we repositioned it following a disappointing holiday. Dresses were were planned to increase in penetration for our Christopher & Banks division also did very well. As the weather warmed in March, our Knit Tops in both solid core programs and novelty categories showed nice increases.
Now I would like to comment on current and future merchandise initiatives. As many of you know we launched an exciting new test called CBK Sport in early March. 168 stores carried the small collection, …