NEW YORK — Markdown pressure after weak February sales helped widen Value City Department Stores Inc.’s first-quarter losses to $13.2 million, or 39 cents a share.

A year ago, the Columbus, Ohio-based retailer posted a deficit of $4.8 million, or 14 cents, which included an aftertax charge of $2.1 million, or 6 cents, for an accounting change.

Sales for the quarter ended May 3 inched up 0.4 percent to $588.5 million from $585.9 million a year ago. Comparable-store sales fell 4.4 percent.

Total sales at the firm’s department stores fell 4.5 percent to $342.9 million. Comps fell 4 percent while women’s apparel comps were off 5.5 percent and men’s slid 5.3 percent

Sales at Filene’s Basement dropped 11.5 percent to $62.6 million, while comps decreased 8.1 percent.

President and chief executive John Rossler, noted on a conference call, “Many of our stores across all three operating units are located in the areas of the Northeast and Midwest that were hit hardest by the bad weather.”

He plans to have all three divisions comping positive by the end of the year, though.

“The corporate reorganization is now under way in terms of the consolidation and centralization of key support functions and we’ve begun experiencing increased efficiencies across the operating units,” added Rossler.

Chief financial officer James McGrady also noted, “Filene’s merchandising strategy is in the early stages of a strategic repositioning to promote in-store excitement on brand name and designer merchandise.”

Chief operating officer Edwin Kozlowski noted, “At the department stores the need is to change the store’s image, appealing to people who have not been in our stores for some time. What we’ve seen so far is strong and memorable, but does not necessarily deliver a compelling message to try us. We’re in the creative stages of adding a greater sense of urgency to our message.”

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