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J. Crew Group Inc., showing progress in its turnaround effort, narrowed its second-quarter loss to $6.1 million compared with $18.5 million in the second quarter last year.

Operating income was $33.3 million compared to $4.8 million in the second quarter last year.

The company said its second quarter this year reflects the impact of the benefit related to a lease termination payment related to relocating the corporate office from Greenwich Village to lower Manhattan, and transformation costs.

Total revenues increased 3 percent to $587.6 million. Comparable sales increased 5 percent. J. Crew sales decreased 5 percent to $428.9 million, but rose 1 percent on a comparable basis.

As expected, the Madewell division did much better, with sales up 29 percent to $121.7 million and comparable sales increasing 28 percent.

Gross margin increased to 38.5 percent from 38.2 percent in the second quarter last year.

Turnaround efforts include expense-cutting, increased digital penetration, sourcing changes involving cost negotiations and introducing subbrands such as Playa for swimwear, all of which officials say offer a younger appeal and more accessible prices and fits. J. Crew is also putting greater emphasis on its Heritage Collection of its most iconic products such as rugby shirts and roll-neck sweaters, plus-sizes and more fit options. In addition, wholesaling activities are widening to more retailers.

A planned relaunch of the J. Crew brand, which for several seasons did drag the overall businesss down, is being planned for September.

Jim Brett, chief executive officer for the past year since taking over for Mickey Drexler, said, “As we report an acceleration in comparable sales growth for the company to 5 percent, we also celebrate a watershed moment as we return to positive comparable growth in our J. Crew brand for the first time in four years and continued stellar performance at Madewell with 28 percent comparable sales growth — which we believe puts Madewell solidly on a path to becoming a $1 billion brand.

“Achieving these results prior to our planned Sept. 10 launch of the ‘New Crew’ is a reflection of the foundation that has been built over the last year. Our financial results reflect revenue growth, continued expansion in gross margin and a marked shift in expense from significant costs last year that were needed to restructure our business, to planned investments this year in support of our aggressive strategic growth agenda — which we expect will allow us to scale the business and return to bottom line net
profitability in the coming year.”