Lower sales and margins left Hot Topic Inc. with a wider first-quarter loss, the company reported Wednesday.


For the three months ended April 30, the net loss fell to $7.7 million, or 17 cents a diluted share, from a loss of $1.8 million, or 4 cents, in the first quarter of 2010. Included in the more recent period were $12.4 million in charges for strategic business changes and cost reductions. Excluding items, EPS for the quarter came to zero cents versus the 1-cent loss expected, on average, by analysts polled by Yahoo Finance.


Sales decreased 0.8 percent to $161.3 million from $162.6 million, as comparable-store sales rose 0.2 percent for the quarter. Gross margin dropped to 31.3 percent of sales from 33.5 percent in the year-ago quarter.


Hot Topic said it expects a loss for the second quarter ending July 30 in the range of 9 cents to 11 cents a share, excluding $3 million in costs in connection with its ongoing strategic changes. Last year, it lost 14 cents a share in the second quarter.


At the end of the first quarter, the company operated 642 Hot Topic stores and 151 Torrid Stores, versus 681 and 156 last year, respectively.


Lisa Harper, former chief executive officer of Gymboree Corp., succeeded Betsy McLaughlin as ceo of Hot Topic in March.


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