NEW YORK — The Thanksgiving calendar shift and promotional retail environment helped pressure November same-store sales down 4 percent at The Dress Barn Inc., a specialty retailer of value-priced career and casual apparel.

The Suffern, N.Y.-based firm, which operates 780 stores, also said total sales for the month decreased 2 percent to $59.1 million compared to $60.3 million reported in November 2001, a month that included Thanksgiving.

"November was a disappointment, especially at the end of the month when there were heavy promotions by a lot of the ‘big box’ chains," David Jaffe, president and chief executive, said. Sales from Thanksgiving this year will be included in December sales, not November.

Still, he said he is "cautiously optimistic going into December when we have Thanksgiving and hopefully start to see some of that business come back." He said he is not anticipating big gains, but hopes to see a small comp increase — in the low-single-digit range — for the new month.

He said DB has taken a three-pronged strategy to drive sales and traffic, including additional discounts, better merchandise and increased marketing in the form of print advertising, direct mail and bounce-back coupons.

Jaffe said strong sellers in November were dressy separates and sweaters.

Heading into the vitally important holiday selling season, Jaffe employed a running metaphor.

"When you are just about to start the race, you take a breath and are pumped to take off," he said. "I believe we have done everything we can do to be ready. We have lined up the stores for holiday, have the store people pumped up and have great promotions and merchandise at the right price. We are hopeful the customer will come in and take advantage."

Apparently, that process hasn’t taken place at Bebe Stores, which said Friday that its comps for November are expected to be off in the mid to high teens. Consequently, comps for the quarter ending at the end of the calendar year should finish down in the mid teens.

In a statement, John Kyees, Bebe’s chief financial and administrative officer, said, "Bebe has begun its transition from a casual assortment to a more sophisticated assortment, with a focus on wear-to-work merchandise, and we believe some customers from prior years have not yet rediscovered our more sophisticated product line."Bebe operates 176 stores in North America under nameplates including Bebe and Bebe Sport.

Most stores will report November comps this Thursday.

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