Big box home improvement retailer Lowe's posted $306 million in fourth quarter 2013 net earnings, a 6.3% increase over the year-ago quarter’s $262 million. Full year 2013 net earnings totaled $2.3 billion, a 16.7% increase over $1.9 billion in 2012.

Fourth quarter sales rose 5.6% to $11.7 billion $11 billion in the fourth quarter of 2012. Comparable sales for the quarter increased 3.9% over the year-ago period. For the year, sales came to $53.4 billion, a 5.7% increase over 2012 sales of $50.5 billion. Comparable sales increased 4.8%, the Mooreville, N.C.-based company reported.

"During the quarter, we delivered solid performance in core home improvement categories, balancing softer sales of seasonal gifts and holiday decorations,” says chairman, president and CEO Robert A. Niblock. “When extreme winter weather arrived late in the quarter, our distribution network responded quickly and efficiently to move product where it was most needed.”

The company will continue to focus on growing its pro business, which according to Greg Bridgeford, chief customer officer, has been growing faster than Lowe’s consumer segment. Lowe’s, he says, will relaunch LowesforPros in the second quarter. The new pro-oriented website will give contractors the ability to access contract pricing online, develop requisition lists, and their purchase history. The new site will be configured for mobile applications.

For the balance of the year, Lowe’s expects total sales to increase by 5%, with comparable sales rising by 4%. Lowes will open about 15 big box home improvement centers, but only six will be in the U.S., another four will open in Canada, and five in Mexico.

The company plans remodel 10 Orchard Supply Hardware stores in California. Previous remodels have successfully driven sales for that brand. Lowe’s will also open five additional Orchard stores in dense, urban areas at some distance from existing big box home improvement centers. Lowe's bought the 72-store Orchard chain out of bankruptcy court last summer for $205 million.

At the end of January 2014, Lowe's operated 1,832 home improvement and hardware stores in the U.S, Canada and Mexico representing 200.1 million square feet of retail selling space.