Byline: Evan Clark

NEW YORK — Value City Department Stores Inc. appointed John Rossler chief executive of the Columbus, Ohio-based off-pricer, just as the firm cut its fourth-quarter losses by more than half.
Rossler, who was appointed president in January, added the title of chief executive officer, replacing George Kolber, who resigned from Value City and its board “to pursue other interests.”
The incoming ceo had been with the firm’s Shonac and DSW Shoe Warehouse businesses for 20 years, where he had worn the hats of chief operating officer, executive vice president and chief financial officer.
In a statement, chairman Jay Schottenstein, noted: “We are grateful to George Kolber for seeing the company though a very difficult period. We are most appreciative of his efforts in stabilizing and repositioning our company. John Rossler, who is very knowledgeable about our business, was instrumental in the growth of the company’s Shonac and DSW Shoe operations. We are confident that John will have the same success at Value City.”
In December 2000, Kolber stepped down as chief operating officer of American Eagle Outfitters to take the top spot at Value City.
During the fourth quarter, the firm’s bottom line sunk to a loss of $8.7 million, or 26 cents a share, comparing favorably to year-ago losses of $22.9 million, or 67 cents.
Results for the recent quarter included $14.6 million in pre-tax severance costs, write-off of software development costs and fees associated with the terminated sale of certain assets. Pre-tax charges in the year-ago period for inventory realignment, asset impairment and severance mounted $19.6 million.
Sales for the 13 weeks ended Feb. 2 declined 4.5 percent to $632.9 million from $662.9 million in the year-ago 14-week quarter. Total comparable-store sales slid 0.9 percent, and were comprised of a 1.2 percent decrease for the Value City division, a 3.2 percent uptick for Filene’s Basement and a 3 percent drop at the DSW stores.
Gross margins rose 73 basis points to 35.3 percent from 34.6 percent in the year-ago quarter. Inventories crept up 0.8 percent to $396.8 million over the year-ago level.
Shares of Value City rose 9 cents, or 2.2 percent, to $4.24 on the New York Stock Exchange Tuesday, but word of the change in leadership and the fourth-quarter results came after the market closed.
Losses for the year narrowed dramatically to $29.7 million, or 85 cents a share, from $101.8 million, or $3.03, last year. Fiscal 2002 included $24.7 million in employee benefit costs, severance and write-offs. The previous year included pre-tax charges of $110 million.
Sales for the year perked up 3.2 percent to $2.28 billion from $2.21 billion last year. Overall comps slid 2.4 percent.

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