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Wet Seal Trims Expectations

October 03, 2002|LESLIE EARNEST | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Retailer Wet Seal Inc., which sells trendy clothes to girls and young women, said Wednesday that sales slowed in late September, prompting the company to reduce its financial expectations for the current quarter.

The Foothill Ranch-based company--which in addition to its namesake stores operates Arden B and Zutopia stores--said sales of sweaters and casual pants have been weak.

The slower sales and increased markdowns, in part, could cause earnings to be break-even to 5 cents a share. A consensus of analysts from Thomson First Call forecast earnings of 18 cents.

If the current sales trends continue through the end of the fiscal year, fourth-quarter earnings could fall below the 49 cents a share analysts were expecting, the company said.

Weak fourth-quarter sales also would cause the company to reduce the number of new stores it is planning to 75 and 100.

Wet Seal shares closed Wednesday at $9.20, up 22 cents, on Nasdaq. The shares have lost 41% of their value this year. The earnings projection was issued after the close of trading.

Wet Seal also said its board has authorized the repurchase of as many as 5.4 million shares of stock, at management's discretion.

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