BRADLEES SEESSTRONG START FOR NEW YEAR

NEW YORK--After announcing a major round of layoffs last week, Bradlees put a more positive spin on its business Tuesday by reporting a 15 percent same-store sales gain for the first week of the new fiscal year. The chain attributed the increase to a home goods promotion and new TV advertising.
Bradlees's new ads mark the return of Mrs. B, the company's spokeswoman of the Seventies and Eighties, played by actress Cynthia Harris.
"It's a tremendous reversal of prior trends," Mark A. Cohen, chairman and chief executive officer, told WWD Tuesday.
In March, the 134-unit Bradlees hopes to spur apparel sales with a wardrobe promotion that will reward shoppers with gift certificates based on apparel purchases.
"It's a department-style promotion that we tried last fall on a limited basis with a lot of success," Cohen said. "So we're rolling out to the chain in a big way next month."
Bradlees last week said it will eliminate about 450 full-time and part-time workers, primarily store managers and assistant managers, to save $19 million annually. About 100 of the positions are either open or filled by employees who will be taking early retirement.
The Braintree, Mass.-based discounter filed for Chapter 11 protection June 23.
In explaining the restructuring moves, Cohen said that for several years, Bradlees has taken sales associates off the payroll rather than reduce management staffing in its stores.
This time, Cohen said, by eliminating a layer of store management, Bradlees also can "redirect considerable funds to other places" and may end up with more sales staff on the floor.
"Frankly, we're expecting less staff to be responsible for more and to be more competent and capable," he said.
Last month, Bradlees consolidated to 10 district offices from 14, as part of a plan to save up to $750,000 annually. Asked if more consolidating is in the cards, Cohen responded, "The news at Bradlees is not going to be massive layoffs or massive store closings. We're trying to make strategic changes as part of our intent to fix the business, not dismantle it."

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