By  on January 8, 2009

Christopher & Banks Corp. reported a smaller-than-expected third-quarter loss Wednesday as costs from the closure of its Acorn brand pulled results below the break-even point.

For the quarter ended Nov. 29, the Minneapolis-based specialty retailer registered a net loss of $1.4 million, or 4 cents a diluted share, versus net income of $10.2 million, or 29 cents a share, for the year-ago period. Excluding discontinued operations, the company lost $39,000, or broke even on an earnings-per-share basis, compared with the net income of $11.1 million, or 31 cents a share in 2007.

Net sales fell 7.9 percent to $143 million from $155.2 million in last year’s period. Same-store sales dropped 14 percent. Analysts polled by Yahoo Finance expected a loss of 9 cents a share on revenue of $133 million.

Gross margin declined to 35.7 percent of sales from 41.7 percent a year ago.

“While the challenging economic environment continues to impact our fiscal 2009 results, we are seeing evidence that a number of the initiatives we have been working on should result in a stronger and more profitable company when conditions normalize,” said Lorna Nagler, president and chief executive officer. “For now, inventory and expense controls, and maintaining positive cash flow, are our highest priorities.”

Nagler said that, at the end of the quarter, the company had “$90 million of cash and investments and no debt.”

Net income for the nine months declined 57.6 percent to $10.7 million, or 31 cents a share, from $25.3 million, or 70 cents a share, a year ago. Excluding charges, the firm posted a net income of $20.8 million, or 59 cents a share, versus $27.8 million, or 70 cents a share.

Looking ahead, the company said it anticipates “continued pressure on its top line” and same-store sales declines in the mid- to high teens for the fourth quarter. On average, analysts expect the company to post a loss of 26 cents a share next quarter, on sales of $104 million.

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