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Bon Ton Stores Reports Loss

The home department merited little mention as The Bon-Ton Stores reported its results two weeks ago — other than naming LivingQuarters among the best performing private label brands and furniture among the worst performing categories.

Bon-Ton's loss for the first quarter ended May 2 widened to $45.4 million, or $2.67 per share, from $34.1 million, or $2.03 per share, a year ago. The company said a smaller tax benefit contributed to the deeper loss.

But the company boosted gross margin during the quarter by 80 basis points to 34.8% of net sales as Bon-Ton chopped same-store inventory by 11% and knocked clearance inventory back 16%. It also lowered selling, general and administrative expenses by $18.9 million.

Sales fell 8.0% to $644.5 million, with comps off 8.6%.

The company planned better business down and shifted buyer's emphasis to moderately priced goods, according to Tony Buccina, vice chairman and president — merchandising. "The customer is really telling us she wants value."

The 280-unit regional department store chain will continue to emphasize leaner inventories, moderate goods and value-oriented key items going forward, he said.

Bon-Ton also intends to become "very aggressive" with e-commerce, a small but rapidly growing sales vehicle.

"We will be getting more vendors and skus on the site," Buccina said, adding Bon-Ton also will expand assortments of vendors already on the site.

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