NEW YORK — Cost controls allowed Elder-Beerman Stores Corp. to narrow its loss in the third quarter even as sales continued to slump.

For the three months ended Nov. 2, the Dayton, Ohio–based regional department store company posted a net loss of $2.1 million, or 19 cents a diluted share. That compares favorably with last year’s loss of $6.8 million, or 60 cents.

Excluding a pretax charge of $2.7 million related to the retirement of the company’s former chief executive officer and the ensuing ceo search, as well as a $4.5 million write-down of accounts receivable owed to Elder-Beerman by Shoebilee, the company would have reported a year-ago net loss of $2.2 million, or 19 cents.

Revenues for the period slipped 1.5 percent to $158.3 million from $160.4 million a year ago, as comparable-store sales dropped 2.2 percent.

"We continue to improve operating performance despite a difficult sales environment," said ceo Byron "Bud" Bergren in a statement. "Our strategies in expense control and inventory management are paying off at the bottom line."

Illustrating that point was an 18.3 percent decrease in selling, general and administrative costs to $43.2 million, or 28.6 percent of revenues, from $52.9 million, or 34.5 percent of revenues, a year ago.

Total costs and expenses also declined, dropping 5.7 percent to $161.6 million, or 107.1 percent of revenues, from $171.3 million, or 111.6 percent of revenues, last year.

Overall, for the first nine months of the year, Elder-Beerman reported a net loss of $21.4 million, or $1.88 a diluted share, greater than last year’s loss of $10.6 million, or 94 cents.

Excluding the effect of an accounting charge related to goodwill and other intangible assets, the company would have posted a net loss of $7.3 million, or 64 cents.

Subtracting an additional $3.2 million in other charges, including a $1 million pretax charge for a store closing, a $1.2 million prsetax severance charge, a $1 million pretax charge for long-term asset write-downs, and miscellaneous charges and gains, Elder-Beerman would have reported a nine-month loss of $5.8 million, or 51 cents.

Total revenues for the period ticked up 0.5 percent to $448.2 million from $445.8 million a year ago, while same-store sales decreased 2.2 percent.

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