Carter Hawley Hale Stores Inc.'s profits for its fourth quarter ended Jan. 31 dropped nearly 23 percent although sales climbed 10 percent.

President Philip M. Hawley said the profit shrinkage resulted largely from the cost of merging the Emporium and Capwell divisions of the merchandising chain and startup costs of inaugurating the new Broadway-Southwest division.

The further adoption of LIFO (last-in, first-out) inventory accounting also cut profit for the year by 22 cents a share, 2 cents more than in the previous year, and interest costs were $16.4 million higher than in the previous year.

Net income for the three-month period fell to $33.1 million ($1.24 a share) from $42.9 million ($1.70) in the comparable period a year ago. Sales climbed to $916.7 million from $832.3 million.

For the full year, earnings dropped 16 percent to $58.1 million ($2.11) from $69.7 million ($2.67) as sales rose to $2.63 billion from $2.41 billion.

"The restructing in our department store operations is completed, and we are confident this segment will turn in strong results in 1981," Hawley said.

Carter Hawley Hale operates 121 stores through its department store division, 33 specialty stores through Bergdorf Goodman, Holt Renfrew and Neiman-Marcus and also owns Contempo Casuals and Waldenbooks.

Meanwhile, in Forest City, Iowa, Winnebago Industries, one of the nation's largest producers of recreational vehicles, reported a return to profitability and a $6.5 million sales increase in it second fiscal-quarter.

The firm, recovering from losses in recreational vehicle sales during the recession, said earnings for the quarter ending Feb. 28 totaled $150,000 (1 cent a share) versus a net loss of $3.3 million during the same quarter in fiscal 1980.

Chairman John K. Hanson said sales for the quarter totaled $28.1 million compared with $21.5 million a year ago. Winnebago sharply curtailed production during much of 1980.

Sales for the first half of fiscal 1981 were $56.6 million compared to $50.8 million the year before, Hanson said.

He said the gains were made under extremely adverse conditions.

"Consumer concerns about high interest rates and rising gasoline prices were only part of the problem," he said. "We also were competing with a high volume of heavily discounted new units from companies going out of business."