By  on March 16, 2011

Hampered by a struggling women’s business battered by a double-digit same-store sales decline, Pacific Sunwear of California Inc. was barely able to reduce its fourth-quarter net loss, causing the West Coast-inspired apparel retailer to miss analysts’ fourth-quarter earnings and sales projections.

The retailer, which also projected a larger-than-expected loss in its first quarter, disclosed late Tuesday that it would shutter between 30 and 50 stores in 2011. Over the next few years, it hopes to reduce its fleet of 839 stores by between 100 and 150 stores.

Shares closed at $4.31, up 12 cents, or 2.9 percent, prior to the release of results Tuesday but reversed course in after-hours trading, falling 36 cents, or 8.4 percent, to $3.95 in the first two hours after the markets closed.

For the period ended Jan. 29, the Anaheim, Calif.-based company posted a net loss of $35.2 million, or 53 cents a diluted share, compared with a loss of $36.5 million, or 56 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. Excluding nonrecurring items, the company said its net loss totaled $22 million, or 33 cents a share.

Net sales slid 10.1 percent to $263 million from year-ago sales of $292.6 million. Comparable-store sales for the quarter slid 7 percent, due to a women’s comp that declined nearly 20 percent. Comps in the men’s division rose in the low-single digits.

Analysts were looking for a loss of 32 cents on sales of $271 million.

Quarterly gross margin slumped to 18.2 percent of sales versus a margin of 22.6 percent a year earlier.

“Obviously, our fourth-quarter results were disappointing,” said president and chief executive officer Gary Schoenfeld on the company conference call. “After seeing the trend improvement in our business over the first three quarters of the year…from a trends perspective in the third quarter, we went into the fourth quarter believing we had a good shot at getting back to a positive comp.”

In order to turn around the business, the ceo said the company is “reestablishing” its spring-summer women’s business, “mitigating product cost pressures and attracting new customers to PacSun.”

Schoenfeld also said the firm is doing away with its “fold the T-shirt culture,” opting instead for one in which the organization “wakes up passionate about the customers, the brands and the product.”

The Anaheim, Calif.-based retailer’s net loss expanded to $96.6 million, or $1.46 a diluted share, in 2010, compared with a loss of $70.3 million, or $1.07 a share, in 2009. Net sales dipped below the $1 billion mark, receding 9.5 percent to $929.5 million from $1.03 billion.

The company anticipates a first-quarter net loss of between 46 cents and 55 cents a share. Excluding special items, it projects a loss ranging from 29 cents to 35 cents. Analysts projected a loss of 22 cents.

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