Better sales and stronger gross margins helped Zale Corp. improve results in the first-quarter, but the jeweler’s bottom line was still awash in red ink.

The Dallas-based firm posted losses of $31.9 million, or 99 cents a share. This compared with losses of $97.9 million, or $3.05, a year earlier, when an amendment to a term loan led to a $46 million charge to the company’s recording of interest expense.

Revenues rose 7.3 percent to $351 million from $327 million as comparable-store sales rose 5.8 percent.
Gross margins expanded to 53.5 percent of sales from 50.5 percent as price increases and fewer discounts propped up operations.

“Our performance this quarter demonstrates the progress we are making toward returning the company to profitability,” said Theo Killion, chief executive officer. “We’ve now achieved top-line growth in four consecutive quarters, and our efforts to expand operating margins are gaining traction.”

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