WOMEN'S RETAIL LOSS CUT TO $11M AT U.S. SHOE

CINCINNATI--The women's apparel retailing group at U.S. Shoe, dominated by the Casual Corner chain, cut its operating loss to $11 million in the second quarter, from a year-ago deficit of $34.6 million.
The 1993 quarter included $17.7 million in nonrecurring charges and losses from discontinued operations.
Sales for the group, which also includes August Max Woman, Petite Sophisticates, Capezio, Pappagallo and Career Image stores, fell 7.1 percent in the period ended July 30, totaling $252 million, versus $271.3 million. Comparable-store sales softened 0.7 percent.
Most of the overall sales decline stemmed from a 10 percent reduction in the group's number of apparel stores, U.S. Shoe officials said in a statement.
"Ouch!," exclaimed Richard Jaffe, an analyst at Wertheim Schroder & Co., commenting on the apparel results. "I thought they could take the poor mix of inventory they had and manage it better. But I suspect they took some aggressive promotions to clean house."
"We knew it would be tough. We lowered our apparel number for the quarter, thinking they might lose $4 million," Jaffe added. "I didn't think they were going to lose $11 million. My hope is the stores are as clean as a whistle and that they have a good fall season."
He said U.S. Shoe improved its operating results in all of its apparel retail businesses except at Petite Sophisticates.
A U.S. Shoe spokesman acknowledged the firm had been promotional in the second quarter and that the stance affected its two biggest apparel chains, Casual Corner and Petite Sophisticates. He declined to comment on the reported improvement at most of the apparel operations.
U.S. Shoe, which also counts among its operations the LensCrafters optical chain and a footwear division, returned to companywide profit in the quarter despite a 1 percent dip in sales.
Earnings in the quarter totaled $6.9 million, or 15 cents a share, against a net loss of $22.7 million. Sales amounted to $633.2 million, off slightly from sales of $639.7 million.
--Fairchild News Service

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