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Bon-Ton pares loss, raises outlook

York, Pa. – The Bon-Ton Stores saw sales growth in 11 out of 17 chief merchandising categories during the third quarter.

The home textiles category was not discussed during the company’s quarterly conference call, multi-category home brand LivingQuarters was among those that out-performed the store. Executives named furniture and hard home as two of the most embattled businesses.

For the quarter ended Oct. 31, the company posted a net loss of $4.2 million, or 24 cents per share, vs. a net loss of $14.3 million, or 85 cents per share, last year. Gross margin rose 200 basis points to 37.6%.

Sales fell 2.9% to $703.9 million, with comps off 2.6%.

The e-commerce business “is growing like a weed,” said Bergren. The company continues to add vendors and expand offerings on line.

For the fist nine months, net loss deepened slightly to $84.5 million from $82.2 million in the year-ago period. Sales fell 6.7% to $1.96 million.

While transaction rates have been improving for the past several months, president and ceo Bud Begren said it’s still too early to determine whether the trend is sustainable. Bon-Ton will continue to perform conservatively, particularly with inventories.

The company raised its fiscal year outlook for EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) to a range of $180 million to $200 million and a loss per share of $2.30 to $1.20.

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