Christopher & Banks on Thursday said it widened it fourth-quarter loss and ended the year in the red.

 

For the three months ended Feb. 26, the loss grew to $16.7 million, or 47 cents a diluted share, from $6.4 million, or 18 cents, in the year-ago fourth quarter. Excluding a noncash charge of 6 cents a share for store asset impairment, the loss was 41 cents a share, 7 cents better than the 48-cent loss expected, on average, by analysts polled by Yahoo Finance.

 

Sales were down 2.2 percent, to $99.6 million from $101.9 million, and fell 1 percent on a same-store basis. Gross margin contracted 820 basis points to 22.9 percent of sales from 31.9 percent in the year-ago quarter.

 

Larry Barenbaum, president and chief executive officer of the Minneapolis-based plus-size specialty retailer, said, “The disappointing performance was largely the result of a merchandise assortment that did not resonate with our customers. We are transforming our merchandising strategy to update the assortment to better align with our customers’ tastes and we expect this strategy to be reflected in our fall collection, which is scheduled for in-store delivery in August. In the meantime, we are carefully managing our inventory levels to ensure that we maintain a fresh in-store merchandise assortment.”

 

Excluding inventory for e-commerce, inventories at year-end were 4 percent above the year-ago level on a per-store basis.

 

The women’s specialty chain said it expects a mid-single-digit decline in same-store sales for the first quarter of fiscal 2012. The company also said it expects to open 31 stores and close 35 locations during 2011.

 

For the year, the loss was $22.2 million, or 63 cents, against income of $158,000, or zero cents a diluted share, in 2009. Sales were down 1.6 percent to $448.1 million from $455.4 million.

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