Steep markdowns and a stumble in merchandising sank Christopher & Banks Corp.’s first-quarter profits 70.2 percent.


The Minneapolis-based misses’ apparel retailer said Thursday that net income for the period ended May 28 totaled $1.9 million, or 5 cents a diluted share. This compared with year-ago profits of $6.3 million, or 18 cents a share.


First-quarter sales slid 1.9 percent to $123.8 million, from $126.2 million, in the year-ago period.


Analysts polled by Yahoo anticipated a loss of 6 cents on sales of $116.1 million.


Same-store sales for the quarter declined 2 percent, as gross margin fell to 34.7 percent of sales from 42.3 percent in the 2010 period.


Although he said the company was experiencing stronger sell-throughs of trendier May product, Larry Barenbaum, president and chief executive officer, stated the firm was still in the process of updating its assortment to “better align” with its “customers’ tastes.”


“While near term we expect the competitive environment to remain promotional, we remain confident that we are moving the company in a direction that will lead to improved sales and profitability over the long term,” he said, adding that fall deliveries will incorporate the updated fashions.


Christopher & Banks said second-quarter same-store sales are anticipated to be flat to up in the low-single digits, while gross margins are expected to continue to deteriorate, shedding between 350 and 450 basis points.


The apparel firm, which operates 773 stores, said it plans to open 31 stores and close 35 stores this year.

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