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Wet Seal Sales Slump Hinders Earnings

NEW YORK — Victimized by weak sales, The Wet Seal Inc. on Thursday posted a third-quarter loss that reversed profits from a year ago.<br><br>The loss for the three months ended Nov. 2 was $2.5 million, or 8 cents a diluted share, against income...

NEW YORK — Victimized by weak sales, The Wet Seal Inc. on Thursday posted a third-quarter loss that reversed profits from a year ago.

The loss for the three months ended Nov. 2 was $2.5 million, or 8 cents a diluted share, against income of $6.8 million, or 22 cents, in last year’s period. Sales were down 1.6 percent to $144.5 million from $146.9 million, while comparable-store sales dropped 6.9 percent.

Kathy Bronstein, vice chairman and chief executive officer, said in a statement: “We have seen improvement in the sales trends in the first two weeks of November, compared to sales trends in October and the third quarter.”

The ceo said the company is taking a “cautious” view of its fourth quarter, given third-quarter results.

“If fourth-quarter sales trends are similar to those of the third quarter, we anticipate that earnings for the fourth quarter will be in the range of 31 cents to 39 cents per diluted share,” she said.

At the end of the quarter, the retailer operated 610 stores versus 568 stores a year ago. During the quarter, it opened 21 Wet Seal stores, four Arden B. stores and three Zutopia stores. The chain also closed three Wet Seal stores, two Contempo Casuals stores and one Zutopia store.

For the nine months, income fell 39 percent to $9.9 million, or 32 cents a diluted share, from $15.8 million, or 52 cents, in the year-ago period. Sales were up 6.4 percent to $447.3 million from $420.4 million, while comps dipped 0.2 percent.