Vera Bradley Profit Dips, Plans Store Closings

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Fort Wayne-based Vera Bradley Inc. (Nasdaq: VRA) is reporting fiscal full-year net income of $19.8 million, down from $27.6 million the previous year. Chief Executive Officer Robert Wallstrom called the year "challenging," but said the company made progress on key elements of its long-term strategic plan. The company also says it plans to close or relocate 15 underperforming stores in the 2018 fiscal year.

The company is also reporting fiscal fourth quarter net income of $3.5 million, down from $15.7 million during the same period the previous year. Wallstrom says the retail environment became more challenging during the fourth quarter.

"Consequently, both total revenues and our gross profit percentage were modestly below our expectations," said Wallstrom. "We have a strong brand, a talented team, and a solid financial foundation and are focused on ensuring Vera Bradley's prosperous future. However, our transformation is taking longer than we had originally planned, and the overall retail environment and accessories space are significantly more challenging than anticipated."

Wallstrom says he believes focusing on the Vera Bradley's three primary goals of driving brand desirability, driving product desirability and strengthening the company's distribution network will position the company for long-term revenue and income growth.

One of the major accomplishments noted by Wallstrom in the company's earnings report is the signing of several licensing agreements over the past fiscal year. Vera Bradley also announced Wednesday it has signed on as a sponsor of the new reality entrepreneur competition show Girl Starter, which will premiere next month.

"Last year Vera Bradley launched its 'It's Good to be a Girl' campaign, meant to demonstrate that femininity has real value," said Vera Bradley Co-Founder Barbara Baekgaard. "Girl Starter exemplifies this spirit as it encourages the next wave of aspiring female entrepreneurs to succeed by providing business counsel and exposure, and for the winner, seed-round funding for her business start-up."

Baekgaard will serve as a guest judge on the May 19 episode of Girl Starter.

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