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May breaks its silence

ST. LOUIS — May Department Stores Company did something new today after releasing its quarterly results — it hosted a conference call with analysts.

The practice is routine for many retailers, though not required. May decided to inaugurate the practice since its acquisition of Marshall Field’s significantly increased the size of the company, according to Tom Fingleton, executive vice president and chief financial officer.

Home textiles turned in a lackluster performance during the second quarter ended July 31, executives said, and even underperformed the total store in what was a "softer" quarter than 1Q. On a positive note, Lauren and Tommy Hilfiger home provided an up-tick "fueled by fashion, stripes and prints," according to Bill McNamara, vice chairman.

Total second quarter sales for the company were above plan — $2.96 billion, down 1.5 percent – while comps declined 2.2 percent. Earnings were $101 million, or 33 cents per share, versus a net loss of $110 million, or 39 cents per share, in the year-ago quarter.

The strategy going forward in home is to focus on top sellers, key programs and distinctive products, McNarama said. May has edited down the department, and home inventory now runs 10 percent lower than it did last year. The company also sees an opportunity to boost its proprietary label in home, McNamara said, acknowledging that May is "in catch-up mode" on that score compared to its competitors.

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