Liz Claiborne Inc.’s first-quarter losses widened as sales slipped and the Juicy Couture brand continued to struggle.

This story first appeared in the April 28, 2011 issue of WWD. Subscribe Today.

And the Mexx business is going to be trimmed back some to help the bottom line.

Chief executive officer William L. McComb told analysts, “We continue to make decisions based on the operating goal of breaking even in the global Mexx business in 2012 and that now includes making selective store closures where required in the retail side of the business to achieve that.”

McComb and other Claiborne executives will flesh out the company’s outlook at an investor conference today.

Net losses attributable to the firm expanded to $96.3 million, or $1.02 a diluted share, from $71.8 million, or 76 cents, a year earlier. The adjusted loss per share from continuing operations tallied 56 cents, worse than the 31 cent deficit analysts expected.

Sales for the three months ended April 2 fell 12.1 percent to $513.2 million from $584.2 million. On a divisional level, Kate Spade was the standout with first-quarter sales up 71.7 percent to $59 million from a year earlier. The rest of the company’s businesses saw sales declines with Juicy down 1.2 percent to $115 million, Mexx off 8.9 percent to $165 million, and Lucky Brand declining 8.9 percent to $84 million.

The challenges at Juicy are expected to continue, but McComb said course corrections made by Leann Nealz, the brand’s president and creative director, would have a positive impact on the holiday season.

“The Juicy woman still loves the Juicy brand,” McComb said. “Our execution has been stale. What gives me a lot of encouragement is the innovation and change that [Nealz’s] team has brought to the table starting holiday.”

Shares of Claiborne rose 3.6 percent, or up 23 cents, to $6.55 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange prior to the aftermarket report.

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