Bon-Ton

The Bon-Ton Stores Inc., hit by the unseasonably warm winter, the promotional environment and mall traffic declines, reported Tuesday that its net income for the fourth quarter ended Jan. 30, 2016 fell 29.4 percent to $50.6 million from $71.7 million in the year-ago period.

The regional department store operator, which has many stores in small and midsize markets where families are financially strapped, said on a diluted per share basis, net income in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2015 was $2.42, versus $3.55 a year ago.

Comparable-store sales decreased 1.9 percent in the last quarter.

Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization totaled $94 million, versus $113.1 million a year ago.

The latest EBITDA figure includes $3.9 million in severance costs associated with previously announced expense reductions and a $600,000 gain from an insurance settlement. EBITDA in the fourth quarter of 2014 included $10.8 million gain associated with the settlement.

Bon-Ton’s stock price dropped almost 10 percent or 26 cents, to $2.35, after the results were released.

Last quarter, Under Armour, Michael Kors, Calvin Klein, Chaps, Levi’s, Kate Spade, Vera Bradley and Polo Ralph Lauren were among the best-selling brands at the Milwaukee-based retailer. Under Armour will expand from the current 100 doors to 225 in the fall. UGG will debut at 60 Bon-Ton doors in the fall. A “Beauty to Go” initiative will be rolled out to 100 doors in the second quarter with outposts featuring travel size items from Clinique, Lancôme and Estée Lauder.

“Despite external headwinds and unseasonable weather that continued into the fourth quarter, we successfully managed elements within our control, reducing SG&A expense for the year and ending the period with inventories below prior year levels,” said Kathryn Bufano, president and chief executive officer.

Bufano said there was progress introducing brands to the matrix, localizing assortments, growing online sales by double-digits, increasing its borrowing capacity, and that two mortgage facilities were retired in advance of their April 2016 maturity date.

Localization efforts involve creating in certain markets “destination stores” emphasizing such categories as social dresses, men’s urban brands and extreme cold weather boots. “Looking ahead, our tagline, ‘Your Store. Your Style,’ will serve as our guide as we work to ensure that each store is expertly tailored to the market it serves,” Bufano said. “To accomplish this, we are further refining our vendor matrix by store tiers to best align with customers and prioritizing capital spend when we see the biggest opportunities for vendor rollout.”

Bon-Ton also has a flagship strategy to bolster 12 larger locations with “vendor newness and shop installations.”

Last quarter, sales of cold weather goods decreased 10 percent. Excluding cold-weather merchandise, total sales increased 1.2 percent.

For all of 2015, the company posted a net loss of $57.1 million, or $2.90 per diluted share, versus a $7 million loss, or $0.36 per diluted share, the year before. Total sales decreased 1.4 percent to $2.72 billion from $2.76 billion. Comparable store sales decreased 1.3 percent.

Bon-Ton is working to ensure its complete assortment is available to every customer online; to streamline the online checkout process; add barcode scanner functionality to the mobile app, and implement buy online, pick up in store capability in the second quarter, with a rollout to all stores seen in September.

Another goal is to reduce inventory by 5 percent, or $100 million at retail, on average through the year, while increasing the footprint on the young contemporary and plus-size footprint. Also, furniture is being rolled out.

Bon-Ton operates 270 department stores in the Northeast, Midwest and upper Great Plains called Bergner’s, The Boston Store, Bon-Ton, Carson’s, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s and Younkers.