Blue Nile reports a 30% sales increase in fourth quarter

Blue Nile on Tuesday reported record fourth quarter net sales of $64.5 million, compared to net sales of $49.6 million in the fourth quarter of 2003, an increase of 30.3%. Income before income taxes in the fourth quarter increased 38.3% to $7.1 million, compared to $5.2 million in the fourth quarter of 2003. Net income in the fourth quarter was $4.6 million.

“Blue Nile’s fourth quarter results reflect the strength in execution of our differentiated business model,” said Mark Vadon, CEO of the Seattle-based company. “Our fourth quarter financial performance was strong across all key measures.”

Net sales for the year, ended Jan. 2, 2005, were $169.2 million, an increase of 31.3% from $128.9 million in the previous year. Income before income taxes was $15.6 million for the year compared to $11.3 million in the previous year. Net income was $10 million.

“2004 was an exceptional year for Blue Nile. We solidified our position as the leader in online diamond and jewelry retailing,” Vadon said. “We built upon the strength of our supply chain relationships. As we begin 2005, we are well positioned for continued growth and are more confident than ever in the strength of our business model. In 2005, our priorities are clear. We will continue to focus on building our brand and expanding our market share in our core customized diamond jewelry business in the U.S. We intend to extend our brand in international markets as we develop our business in Canada and in the U.K. Lastly, we will maintain our disciplined focus on profitable growth.”

Other Financial Highlights:

* Gross profit for the fourth quarter was $14.1 million, compared to $11.1 million in the fourth quarter of 2003, an increase of 27.6%.

* Gross profit as a percentage of net sales was 21.9% in the fourth quarter of 2004 compared to 22.4% in the fourth quarter of 2003.

* Net cash provided by operating activities was $30.7 million in the fourth quarter, compared to $15.7 million in the fourth quarter of 2003.

* Capital expenditures in the fourth quarter totaled $1.1 million, compared to $948,000 in the fourth quarter of 2003.

The company for the first time provided financial guidance for the first quarter and full year 2005. Among the expectations:

* First quarter net sales are expected to be between $42 million and $44 million.

* Net sales for the year are expected to be between $200 million and $212 million.