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Last published at August 7, 2009 at 11:12 AM

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Blue Nile reports 11.3% decline in quarterly profit

Internet jeweler Blue Nile today posted a slightly lower second-quarter profit that matched Wall Street's expectation. For the three months...

Seattle Times business reporter

Internet jeweler Blue Nile today posted a slightly lower second-quarter profit that matched Wall Street's expectation.

For the three months ended July 5, Blue Nile had a profit of $2.8 million, or 19 cents a share, down 11.3 percent from $3.2 million, or 20 cents a share, a year ago.

Sales fell 5.2 percent from a year ago to $69.9 million. Still, that was better than the previous two quarters' declines of 11 percent and 23 percent.

Blue Nile CEO Diane Irvine said the Seattle company benefited from a drop in wholesale diamond prices and the demise of brick-and-mortar rivals.

Few retail sectors have been hit harder by the recession than jewelry, and recent bankruptcy filings by the likes of Finlay Enterprises present "perhaps unprecedented opportunity for Blue Nile," Irvine said. "We see clear signs we're gaining market share in this environment at an accelerated rate."

Irvine said strong demand for diamond engagement rings and wedding bands was offset by a decline in other types of jewelry purchases, reflecting a pullback in consumer spending on anything seen as unnecessary.

Looking ahead, Blue Nile predicts full-year sales of between $288 million and $295 million and a per-share profit of 78 cents to 82 cents.

"For the balance of the year, we anticipate further improvement in sales," Chief Financial Officer Marc Stolzman said in a statement.

For the third quarter, Stolzman said he expects sales to be even with a year earlier or slightly down.

Blue Nile's second-quarter, per-share profit matched the 19 cents analysts expected, and its full-year prediction seemed to please Wall Street.

Blue Nile stock rose about 70 cents, or 1 percent, to nearly $52 in after-hours trading. Earlier in the day, shares closed up $1.59, or 3 percent, at $51.29.

Amy Martinez: 206-464-2923 or amartinez@seattletimes.com

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