Bon-Ton braces for slow holiday season

York, PA — The Bon-Ton Stores is maintaining low expectations for the upcoming holiday season, with the calendar yielding fewer holiday shopping days in a challenging retail environment.

Sales are expected to be flat to up a point, said Frank Tworecke, vice chairman and chief merchandising officer, during the company's third quarter conference call. Promotions will likely see deeper discounting than last year, added Jim Baireuther, vice chairman, coo and chief administrative officer. "The price competition out there is significant, and we're reacting accordingly." Baireuther added that November and December account for about 30 percent of the retailer's annual sales.

For the third quarter, the home area was even with last year's performance, Tworecke said. Sales overall fell to $167.5 million from $175.6 million, a decline o 4.6 percent, in the same period last year. Comps for the same period also dropped 4.6 percent. Sales were also affected by the decrease in seasonal clearance merchandise, he said, though it resulted in improved gross margins. Year-to-date sales decreased 0.9 percent to $471.9 million from $476.2 million for the same period last year, and comps also fell 0.9 percent.

The company reported net income in the third quarter of $0.3 million, or $0.02 per share, compared to a net loss of $0.5 million, or $0.03 per share, for the same period of fiscal 2001. In the third quarter of fiscal 2001, the company recorded an unusual expense of $0.9 million pre-tax, or $0.04 per share, related to a reduction in work force. Excluding the unusual expense, net income for the third quarter of fiscal 2001 was $0.01 per share.

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