By  on February 23, 2005

NEW YORK — A year after reporting its first profitable quarter, online retailer Bluefly Inc. stayed in the black during the fourth quarter and narrowed its full-year 2004 loss because of a strong holiday season that was bolstered by trend-right merchandise and sales at the company’s second brick-and-mortar store.

The six-year-old company posted a $7,000 profit in the three months ended Dec. 31, but turned in a per-share loss of 7 cents, which included preferred stock dividends. During the same quarter in 2003, the company earned $111,000, or a loss of 7 cents.

Total revenues rose 3.7 percent to $14.5 million. Online sales increased 6.5 percent to $14.2 million from $13.4 million last year, while sales from the company’s temporary physical store totaled $251,000, down 46 percent from $465,000 in sales at last year’s shop.

For the year, the New York-based company lost $3.8 million, or 55 cents, versus a loss of $6.4 million, or 88 cents, a year ago. Total revenues were $43.8 million, up 15.5 percent.

The stock closed at $1.39, up four cents, in Nasdaq trading on Tuesday.

Melissa Payner, Bluefly’s chief executive officer, said in an interview that the company continued its focus on bringing “current trends to the consumers at [a] great value, [and] at the same time, as full-price retailers” during the quarter. In the fall, for example, tweed was one of the big trends, so Bluefly offered brand-name and designer tweeds, but at its characteristic 30 to 40 percent off retail prices.

Meanwhile, the Bluefly.store at 102 Wooster Street in Manhattan’s SoHo neighborhood, opened on Nov. 19 in time to capture holiday shopping sales. The shop — 4,000 square feet compared with the 7,500-square-foot store that opened on West 24th Street last year — will stay in business until March 21. It is possible the unit will remain open longer, Payner said. Bluefly.store offers a combination of already-reduced merchandise as well as the same selection that consumers would find on its Web site, Bluefly.com. By contrast, last year’s store predominantly liquidated excess inventory that was two to three years old.

The Wooster Street shop was a learning experience for Bluefly, Payner said. “I wouldn’t say it was an overall success,’’ she said. “I wouldn’t say it was by any means a failure. I would say we learned a lot from the store.”Bluefly found that the location wasn’t entirely ideal. Payner called it “confusing,” saying SoHo is “not an easy place for people to come if you’re trying to clear through inventory or for people to come on their lunch hour.”

The company is open to having a longer-term brick-and-mortar store offering a combination of clearance and regularly priced Bluefly.com merchandise. Bluefly is not sure whether that means regularly opening a store for the holiday season or having one in business year-round. Finding the right location would be the priority. Citing a sample sale Bluefly held at the Chelsea Hotel, Payner thinks that particular neighborhood in Manhattan would work.

“Chelsea would be great. We really got a lot of traffic there [at the sample sale],” she said.

Separately, Bluefly said Barry Erdos, president of Build-a-Bear Workshop, was appointed chairman of its audit committee, and Chris McCann, president of 1-800-FLOWERS, was named to the same committee. They replace Robert Stevens and Josephine Esquivel, who each resigned from Bluefly’s board.

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