Outside the J. Crew store on Regent Street.

Showing some progress in its turnaround efforts, J. Crew Group on Wednesday posted a second-quarter net loss of $8.6 million, which was significantly smaller than the $13.6 million lost in the year-ago period.

The company continues to remake the merchandise of the J. Crew brand and grow the Madewell brand through new stores, online and through increased distribution at Nordstrom doors. Madewell has been performing better than J. Crew.

This week, WWD reported first that Nordstrom would also be selling J. Crew, beginning Sept. 12 at 16 of its full-line stores.

J. Crew Group’s reduced loss came despite a 4 percent decrease in total revenues to $569.8 million during the second quarter. Comparable company sales fell 8 percent following a decline of 11 percent in the second quarter last year.

The results fueled some optimism at the company which, like many retailers, is struggling with the tough climate for selling fashion. “I am pleased with the steps we are taking to improve our core business in a challenging traffic environment,” said Millard Drexler, chairman and chief executive officer. “Looking ahead, we are focused on driving sales productivity with exciting new merchandising and marketing initiatives that are expected to enhance customer loyalty and extend our brand reach. We have several key operational initiatives under way that we believe position us to optimize our global sourcing and supply chain and we will continue to review all aspects of our business to drive further efficiencies. Overall, I am encouraged by the work that the teams are doing as we evolve our business to maximize the power of the J. Crew and Madewell brands.”

By division, J. Crew sales decreased 6 percent to $476.7 million. J. Crew comparable sales fell 9 percent following a drop of 13 percent in the second quarter last year.

Madewell sales increased 15 percent to $78.3 million, while comparable sales rose 3 percent following an increase of 8 percent in the second quarter last year. Gross margin was 35.7 percent compared to 34.3 percent in the second quarter last year.

Operating income was $6.7 million, compared to $2.6 million in the second quarter last year. Operating income in the second quarter last year included a charge of $4.5 million for severance and related costs associated with the company’s workforce reduction in June 2015 and pre-tax, non-cash impairment charges of $1 million.

Selling, general and administrative expenses were $196.5 million, or 34.5 percent of revenues, compared to $199.8 million, or 33.6 percent of revenues in the second quarter last year.

Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization was $38.3 million compared to $41 million in the second quarter last year.

Earlier in the week, Pete Nordstrom, copresident of Nordstrom Inc., told WWD, “I will say our customers have an awareness and affinity for the J. Crew brand. If you were to survey our customers about what brands they like, J. Crew would be right up on top. We probably share more customers with J. Crew than any other department store.”

Meanwhile, Nordstrom is increasing its Madewell distribution to another 20 stores this fall, bringing the total to 76 locations in the U.S. and Canada.

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