UPDATE 2-Big Lots says sales declines to stop as investments pay off

Fri Mar 7, 2014 12:27pm EST
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* 4th-qtr adjusted earnings from U.S. operations beats market estimates

* Says adding more freezers and coolers in stores to boost sales

* Financing program to push furniture sales

* Shares jump 23 pct (Adds CEO, analyst comment; updates shares)

By Aditi Shrivastava and Maria Ajit Thomas

March 7 (Reuters) - Close-out retailer Big Lots Inc said same-store sales would stop falling in the current fiscal year as its investments to boost sales start paying off.

Big Lots shares rose as much as 23 percent on Friday after the company also reported a better-than-expected profit for the holiday shopping quarter - a period for which most U.S. retailers posted weak results due to an unseasonably cold winter and heavy discounting.

Big Lots, which buys products such as furniture and toys from stores that are closing down and sells them at a discount, said a pilot furniture financing program and the installation of freezers and coolers in stores will help boost sales this year.

As a result, Big Lots, which has posted a fall in same-stores sales in every quarter of fiscal 2013, said comparable store sales would be flat to up 2 percent in fiscal 2014.   Continued...