NEW YORK — The Bon-Ton Stores Inc. bounced back from a small year-ago loss with a modest profit in the third quarter.

This story first appeared in the November 22, 2002 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

For the three months ended Nov. 2, the York, Pa.–based operator of 73 department stores in nine Northeastern states generated net income of $328,000, or 2 cents a diluted share, versus a net loss of $484,000, or 3 cents, in the comparable period last year. Without a $900,000 pretax charge for workforce reductions in the 2001 quarter, Bon-Ton would have earned 1 cent a share.

Net and comparable-store sales decreased 4.6 percent as sales volume dropped to $167.5 million from $175.6 million in the year-ago quarter.

“We delivered third-quarter earnings ahead of the prior year in spite of lower sales,” said James Baireuther, vice chairman and chief administrative officer, in a statement. “The gross margin rate increased, reflecting the change in our inventory mix with less clearance inventory and seasonal carryover than last year.”

Operating income rose 71.9 percent to $2.9 million as gross margin was lifted to 37.4 percent of sales from 36.3 percent in the 2001 period.

Year-to-date, the regional department store firm reduced its net loss to $5.6 million, or 37 cents a share, from $8.6 million, or 57 cents, last year.

Excluding last year’s workforce reduction charge, the year-ago net loss per share would have been 53 cents. Sales decreased 0.9 percent to $471.9 million from $476.2 million and were off the same percentage on a comp basis.