A Dillard's store.

Dillard’s Inc., still grappling with the loss of sales while the coronavirus pandemic temporarily shuttered its 285 stores, signaled that it is reopening.  

In its first-quarter earnings release on Thursday, the Little Rock, Ark.-based department store chain reported that its total retail sales in the roughly three months that ended on May 2 had dropped by 47 percent compared to the previous year. The retailer said it experienced a net loss of $162 million, or $6.94 per share, in the first quarter, compared to a net income of $78.6 million, or $2.99 per share, the same time last year. 

Net sales for the first quarter were $787 million, compared to $1.5 billion around the same time last year. On Thursday, the retailer’s shares were at $24.70 after the market, up by roughly 7 percent. The company said it expects to be “in a net operating loss position for the fiscal year.”

From mid-March, when local governments began responding to the COVID-19 crisis, to early April the company had closed all its stores, the company said, and began to furlough workers. This month, it has begun reopening stores, including 125 Dillard’s stores and 24 clearance centers, but operating the open stores at reduced hours, according to the company. 

“COVID-19 has impacted every aspect of our business,” Dillard’s chief executive officer William T. Dillard 2nd said in a statement. 

“The mall business in general and department stores, specifically, have been particularly hard hit,” he said. “While our balance sheet was already strong, we took decisive — sometimes difficult — actions to preserve liquidity and ensure our long-term viability. As we reopen stores, we see positive things happening. We believe people are ready to get out and shop. We are hoping this is the start of better times.”

Retail stores generally face uncertainty about stores openings. Public health experts have urged caution as states still continue to work on ramping up testing and contact tracing efforts to isolate those who may be infected. On Tuesday, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told a Senate committee that there were still a lot of unknowns about the COVID-19 still being learned in real time, including its potential effect on children. 

Dillard’s said, in response to the pandemic and store closures, it had to furlough most of its 38,000 associates, as well as employees in “certain corporate and support facility functions.”

The company said it still provided some benefits to furloughed associates, and that as stores are reopening, the associates are being asked to come back. It said 65 percent of its associates are on furlough still.