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Gottschalks halves last year's loss

FRESNO, Calif. — Helped by a combination of stronger same-store sales, improving margins and lower costs, Gottschalks Inc. reported a sharply narrowed first quarter loss of $2.1 million, lower by 47 percent than a year-before loss of $4 million.

Excluding results of stores shuttered earlier as part of an overhaul of operations, same-store sales at the West Coast independent department store chain increased 4.8 percent, to $144.5 million from $137.9 million.

Steadily improving its operations, Gottschalks bolstered margins 60 basis points, or six-tenths of a percentage point, to 34.4 percent from 33.8 percent a year ago. At the same time tweaking expenses, the retailer reduced its costs, when measured as a percentage of sales, to 34.1 percent from 34.9 percent, an improvement of 80 basis points, or eight-tenths of a percentage point.

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