CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. -- Signal Apparel Co. reported a fourth-quarter loss of $6.7 million against a loss of $14.9 million in the same quarter last year.

The company said the reduced loss reflected the initial phases of a turnaround that began last June. Also cited were the closing of an unprofitable facility, termination of the unprofitable licensed Keds apparel line and reduced interest expense.

Sales dropped 37.2 percent, to $23 million from $36.7 million, reflecting reduced holiday sales of licensed products and fleecewear, the company said.

For the year ended Dec. 31, the company lost $33.9 million against a loss a year ago of $20.5 million. Sales fell 24 percent, to $131 million from $172.2 million.

Marvin A. Davis, chairman and chief executive officer of the sportswear manufacturer, noted that the full year loss reflected a weak apparel market, price competition, and restructuring costs. He added that Signal has experienced inventory and production problems. The company worked to correct these problems in the last six months, and the results are beginning to show in improved manufacturing efficiency and greater margins.

During the current year, he said, the firm expects gradual improvement in operating results from a better sales mix and higher profit margins.

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