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Joel Waller Named President of Christopher & Banks

Former Wet Seal ceo joins as firm projects operating loss, suspends dividend.

Christopher & Banks Corp. tapped former Wet Seal Inc. chief executive officer Joel Waller as president in a bid to revitalize the flagging chain. Waller, who guided Wet Seal from 2005 to 2008, will report to Larry Barenbaum, who remains ceo of the Minneapolis-based chain, but is giving up the title of president.

 

“Based on Joel’s extensive retail experience, coupled with his operational, product sourcing and management background, we believe that he will be highly effective in assisting us in revitalizing the business and getting the company back on track to profitability,” Barenbaum said.

 

The 774-door chain appears to need all the help it can get.

 

Christopher & Banks also said it suspended its quarterly dividend in a bid to conserve cash and projected operating losses for the third-quarter ended Nov. 26.

 

Sales for the three months inched up 2.5 percent to $123.9 million as the company cut prices to move through seasonal inventory. Once the books for the quarter are closed, gross margins are expected to have shrunk to a range of 21.3 percent to 21.7 percent from 35.9 percent a year earlier.

 

“We are clearly disappointed in our third quarter performance,” said Barenbaum. “We were more aggressive in our promotions in order to drive sales and move through seasonal inventory, which resulted in flat comparable store sales although at sharply lower gross margins.”