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Strong sales shrink WPS loss

WESTPOINT, Ga. — Helped by stronger sales as well as deep cuts in costs and interest expense, WestPoint Stevens Inc. recorded a narrowing first-quarter loss of $14.9 million — down 12 percent from a year-before deficit of $16.9 million — as it works it way through bankruptcy and a sweeping overhaul of operations.

With robust sales in bed and bath, WestPoint finally reversed a long string of sales declines — as deep as 19 percent during last year's second quarter — boosting sales in the opening quarter 5.4 percent, to $399.6 million from $379.3 million.

Also helped by an improving retail environment, as well as the collapse last year of rival Pillowtex Corp., bath sales surged 10 percent in the opening quarter, while bedding sales improved 9 percent.

WestPoint has consistently improved its sales over the last three fiscal quarters, from the 19 percent drop in sales during last year's second quarter; to a sharply narrowed 3 percent third-quarter drop in the wake of the Pillowtex collapse; to a 2 percent decline in last year's fourth quarter; and now an actual increase.

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