* Q4 adj EPS cont ops 10 cts vs Street view 10 cts
* Still sees 2012 adj EBITDA $125 mln-$140 mln
* Jan, Feb sales up at kate spade, Lucky, down at Juicy
* Shares down 6 percent
Feb 29 (Reuters) - Liz Claiborne Inc reported lower-than-expected holiday quarter sales as its largest brand, Juicy Couture, continued to struggle, and its shares fell more than 6 percent.
Sales at Juicy Couture, which generates 36 percent of total sales, fell 15.4 percent over the holiday period. The pain was offset by large gains at the company’s other major brands: sales were up 23.2 percent at Lucky Brand, its second-largest label, and rose 73.4 percent at kate spade.
Total sales fell 2.6 percent to $447.1 million during the quarter that ended on Dec. 31, coming in well below Wall Street estimates of $477.50 million.
In the last few years, Liz Claiborne has sold off many brands, including its namesake, to lessen it debt load but also to focus on the units in which it sees the most potential, making Juicy’s performance crucial.
The company sought to reassure investors on a conference call, saying Juicy was showing signs of improvement.
At Juicy Couture, the declines are moderating, with comparable sales down 2 percent in February so far, in part because it is offering fewer discounts, hurting sales but improving margins.
Chief Executive William McComb told analysts that Juicy’s comparable sales would be flat in the first half of the year, then rise 10 percent in the second half.
Comparable sales at Lucky Brand surged 29 percent in January and rose 30 percent at kate spade, with large gains continuing at both brands this month.
The company reported fourth-quarter net income of $229.2 million, or $1.91 a share, including profits from the sale of its namesake brand to J.C. Penney Co Inc last year. That compares with a year-earlier loss of $30.1 million, or 28 cents a share.
Including only continuing operations and excluding special items, Claiborne’s profit fell to 10 cents per share from 14 cents, in line with Wall Street forecasts, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.
Over the holiday quarter, Claiborne sold more items at full price and directly to customers rather than through another retailer, lifting gross profit margin 2.3 points to 53.8 percent of sales.
The company, which is changing its name to “Fifth & Pacific Cos” in May, reiterated its early January forecast for 2012 earnings of between $125 million and $140 million before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.
Claiborne shares were down 6 percent at $9.76 in midday trading on Wednesday.