Byline: Sidney Rutberg

NEW YORK--Reflecting improved margins and higher same-store sales, Loehmann's Holdings Inc. posted a solid 59.6 percent earnings increase in the third quarter ended Oct. 29.
For the period, Loehmann's earned $2.2 million against $1.4 million a year ago. Earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) were up 18 percent to $24.5 million from $20.7 million.
Sales were up 7.2 percent to $105.8 million from $98.7 million while same-store sales rose 6.4 percent.
In a filing with the Securities & Exchange Commission, Loehmann's said that cost of sales eased to 69.1 percent of sales from 70.1 percent, as margins rose about 1.1 percent and markdowns declined. At the same time, expenses increased to 21.3 percent of sales from 20.4 percent as a result of efforts to increase sales. The latest figure reflected higher advertising expenses, improved merchandise presentation, increased direct mail efforts and recruitment of management, the company said. Although Loehmann's is privately owned, it files financial information because of about $130 million in high-yield bonds outstanding. The company noted that in February and August of 1994, it made semiannual interest payments of $5.3 million each on its 13 3/4 percent senior subordinated notes. It also made semiannual interest payments of $2.7 million and $2.9 million on its outstanding 10 1/2 percent senior secured notes.
Rosemary Sisson, retail bond analyst at Salomon Bros., called the figures "very impressive." She noted that Loehmann's has managed to buck the trend in women's apparel retailing. "Generally, if your sales go up, your margins go down. But Loehmann's managed to get both sales and margins up. SG&A expenses did go up as a percentage of sales, but that's from increased advertising and better presentation. That's money well spent and should pay off down the road."
"I think the company has reached the turnaround point. It's doing a good job, and it's now a good candidate for a credit upgrade."
While Loehmann's bonds don't trade actively, Sisson said that they are now being quoted at around 99 cents on the dollar.
For the nine months, the company earned $1.9 million against a year-ago loss of $3.1 million. Sales were up 7.9 percent to $292.7 million from $271.4 million, and same-store sales were up 8 percent.
On May 20, 1994, the company opened a store in Sawgrass Mills, Sunrise Fla. It closed two 6,000-foot stores in Buffalo and Syracuse, N.Y., during the third quarter, bringing the total stores in operation to 80.-- Fairchild News Service

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