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Retail Ventures improves performance, pushes home

Columbus, Ohio -- Climbing back on track after a string of disappointing results, diversified off-pricer Retail Ventures Inc.

(RVI) boosted same-store sales, plumped up margins, whittled down costs, paid down debt and hacked away at interest costs, producing a first-quarter operating profit of $13.1 million.

That reversed a prior-year loss of $11.0 million. A one-time, non-cash charge of $59.4 million widened the on-paper quarterly loss of $59.4 million, compared with last year's $11.5 million deficit.

In the company’s conference call, president and ceo Heywood Wilansky said the turnaround in the company’s home categories is very encouraging, with home comps up 3.6% at the Filene’s Basement division.

At Value City, where home departments had been strategically trimmed 10 months ago, there is good news in those categories that are being championed. "In the domestics and housewares businesses we’re running comps again in that mid-single-digit trend already, when we take out the businesses that we’ve given up."

Wilansky said the trend in home is "equal to or better than the total company" gain.

Wilansky said seasonal goods such as summer furniture, a direct import business, are showing "price points up a little and the business is up high-double digits." He praised the work of former Garden Ridge president and ceo Paul Davies, who was brought in by RVI in January to oversee the home area. Wilansky said Davies "will get home structured with 50% to 60%" of the business in upfront replenishable programs, and as much as 40% in opportunistic buys.

In a major top-line turnaround by RVI, same-store sales improved by 3.5% during the opening quarter, with Value City comps up 2.5%, climbing back from a deep decline of 7.9% a year, ago, a swing of more than 10% over the past 12 months.

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