Bebe Stores Inc. is entering the Greater China market, with plans to open 60 to 150 stores over a five-year period.
The women’s specialty chain has signed an agreement with Longgoal LLC, a Shanghai-based agency. The Asian firm, which works with international high-end brands, will open per a licensing arrangement between 60 and 150 stores in Greater China, Hong Kong, Macau and Taiwan. The licensing agreement is for a period of five years, with an option for an additional 10 years. The first store is slated to open in the summer of 2016.
Jim Wiggett, Bebe’s chief executive officer, said, “As we continue to expand our international footprint, our entrance into Greater China is a significant opportunity to accelerate that growth and reinforce Bebe as a global lifestyle brand for women.”
Bebe said it will locally design and develop up to 30 percent of the product for China to ensure fashion styles reflect the local lifestyle in China. The specialty chain also said it plans to expand into licensing agreements for handbags, shoes and intimates during the initial partnership phase.
The decision to expand internationally occurs at a time when Wiggett and his team have been affecting a repositioning of the brand. The company is refocusing the Bebe brand into a lifestyle resource from its party-girl image.
Bebe, which posted fourth-quarter results on Thursday, narrowed its loss for the period. The net loss for the three months ended July 4 was $5.2 million, or 7 cents a diluted share, from a net loss of $34.5 million, or 43 cents, a year ago.
Excluding certain charges, the loss on an adjusted basis was $4.3 million, or 5 cents for the quarter. Net sales inched up 0.7 percent to $104.3 million from $103.6 million, with comparable-store sales up 1.1 percent. Wall Street was expecting an adjusted loss of 4 cents a share on revenues of $106.3 million.
For the year, the loss was $27.7 million, or 35 cents a diluted share, compared with a loss of $73.4 million, or 93 cents, last year. Net sales rose 0.7 percent to $428 million from $425.1 million.
Wiggett said the company “achieved our fourth consecutive quarter of comparable-store sales growth….[W]e maintained our focus on improving our merchandise offering to appeal to the lifestyle needs of the Bebe woman, refining our brand message and building upon our omnichannel capabilities.”
He noted that while tops and bottoms generally did well, the brand’s Bohemian collection, particularly day dresses, “did not perform to our expectations.”
Separately, the company said it would be withdrawing a previously filed shelf registration with the Securities and Exchange Commission in connection with a proposed sale of 46.9 million shares of common stock held by certain shareholders connected with Bebe’s chairman, Manny Mashouf.
Shares of Bebe rose 8.7 percent to close at $1.87 in Nasdaq trading Thursday. The company reported earnings results after the markets closed.