NEW YORK--Carson Pirie Scott & Co. said earnings slid 10.9 percent in the third quarter, but expects beefed-up assortments and heftier advertising will improve results going into the holiday season. Earnings dropped to $4.1 million from $4.6 million a year ago in the quarter ended Oct. 27. However per-share earnings for the Milwaukee-based department store operator rose to 24 cents a share from 23 cents, reflecting Carson's repurchase of 3.6 million shares over the past 12 months. The results were slightly above Wall Street's estimate of 22 cents per share. Other department stores also have reported a weak quarter, including May Department Stores Co., which reported a 7 percent earnings decline. Sales sank 10.2 percent to $248.9 million from $277.3 million following the sale in March of eight Minnesota stores to Mervyn's, a division of Dayton Hudson Corp. Same-store sales eased 0.2 percent. Stanton J. Bluestone, president and chief executive officer, said he is "guardedly optimistic" about Christmas selling. "I anticipate a very competitive environment, but I am confident the five newly renovated stores which have performed very well since completing renovation in the middle of October, the introduction of several new merchandise lines, improved merchandise assortments, an intensified marketing program and the return of more seasonable weather should have a positive impact on our fourth-quarter performance," Bluestone said. Edward P. Carroll Jr., executive vice president of merchandising, said in a telephone interview the company is adding more "depth and breadth" to its women's business, particularly in better sportswear and special sizes. In its men's business, the firm will open 12 shops featuring Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren Polo or Nautica. The company introduced these lines this year. Regarding marketing initiatives, Carroll said television advertising for the holiday season will be up 20 percent over 1994, representing its largest holiday budget ever. The ads focus on specific categories, such as a beauty week campaign now being aired, and building the store's image. The department store also expects to beef up newspaper advertising for the holiday. The strongest-selling category in the third quarter was wear-to-work career wear in dresses, suits and better sportswear, according to Carroll. Bluestone said he was "satisfied" with third-quarter results considering the difficult retail climate. "Despite the sluggish results, we were able maintain our gross margin rates with last year's levels and improve our expense control in the quarter," he said.
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