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Bon-Ton Hit by Winter Weather

Department store comps seen falling 3.5 percent for full year.

The Bon-Ton Stores Inc.’s warning that “unfavorable winter weather conditions” hurt December comparable-store sales and could lead the chain to losses for the year.

Brendan Hoffman, president and chief executive officer, said, “We are disappointed with the deceleration in sales during December, particularly given the strong start to the holiday season beginning with Black Friday and extending through the early part of the month.”

The company’s comps are now slated to fall 3.5 percent for the full year — after dipping a lesser 2.6 percent for the first nine months of the year.

Hoffman noted that adverse weather and treacherous travel conditions resulted in a sharp reduction in store traffic, which in turn “hampered promotional events on key weekend selling dates leading up to and continuing after Christmas.”

Still, the ceo said strategic inventory reductions helped Bon-Ton end December with inventory levels well below that of a year ago.

Bon-Ton now expects adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization this year of $160 million to $170 million, while the bottom line ranges from a loss of 30 cents per diluted share to earnings of 15 cents.

The company had been looking for adjusted EBITDA of $170 million to $190 million and earnings of 15 cents to 75 cents a share.

Bon-Ton will provide more details in early March when it posts results for the fourth quarter and full year periods ending  Feb. 1.