Off-pricer Syms Corp. saw its first-quarter loss more than double as sales declined at a double-digit pace.


In the three months ended Feb. 26, the Secaucus, N.J.-based retailer registered a net loss of $17.8 million, or $1.23 a diluted share, more than twice the year-ago loss of $7.4 million, or 51 cents, registered in the 2010 quarter. Eliminating asset impairment and restructuring charges, the loss in the most recent quarter was $12.1 million against a $7.3 million loss in the prior-year period.


Net sales withered 12.6 percent to $100.9 million from $115.5 million, as comparable-store sales contracted 7 percent and gross margin declined to 31.3 percent of sales from 32.9 percent a year ago.


For the full year, the net loss was $32.9 million, or $2.27 a diluted share, against net income of $8.3 million, or 57 cents. Excluding special items, such as gains of $24.8 million on insurance proceeds related to the passing of company founder Sy Syms and of $9.7 million on its June 2009 acquisition of Filene’s Basement, Syms would have logged a net loss of $24.8 million last year versus a loss of $21.2 million in the prior year. The gains were offset by $4.9 million in costs related to the Filene’s acquisition.


Comps were flat last year while net sales grew 18 percent to $445.1 million from $377.3 million in the fiscal year ended in February 2010. Gross margin improved to 39 percent of sales from 38.5 percent.


The company, which provided no commentary on its results and didn’t hold a conference call to discuss them, operates 47 off-price stores, principally in the eastern half of the U.S., and operates stores under the Syms and Filene’s Basement banners as well as a format combining the two names.

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