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Bon-Ton Affirms Guidance

After better-than-expected performance in February and March, April's weather woes set back first-quarter results at the Bon-Ton Stores, executives said during their earnings call with analysts.

For the quarter ended May 5, Bon-Ton reported a net loss of $29.3 million, or $1.78 per share, compared to a net loss of $10.8 million, or 66 cents per share, during last year's first quarter.

Following last year's acquisition of Carson's, sales climbed 31.3% to $737.6 million. Carson's contributed $476.9 million to the total, with other income ringing in at $22.6 million.

President and ceo Bud Bergren noted that the first quarter is historically a clearance-driven period with low margins. "I would like to reiterate what we said a year ago — the integration of the Carson's and Bon-Ton is a two-year process. We will not have a 'normalized' year until 2008," he said.

Sales have improved in May, and Bon-Ton execs expect the fiscal year performance to fall in the lower end of the range of its earlier guidance: earnings per share of $3.40 to $3.50 and EBITDA of $315 to $320 million."

In other news, the chain said it has rolled out KN Luxury Home, an exclusive collection by designer Karen Neuburger, to 269 stores. The line debuted in January.

Comprising bedding ensembles, luxury sheet sets, bath towels and accessories, tabletop items, gifts and decorative pieces, the collection dovetails with the department store retailer's assortment of KN sleepwear and loungewear.

"The KN Karen Neuburger brand already has outstanding name recognition among our customers. We believe that the quality and elegance of the KN Home products in addition to the pure comfort and inspired designs of the collection will resonate with our customers," said Bergren.

KN Luxury Home bedding ranges from cotton to silk dupioni and includes accents such as pearls, shells and silk embroidery. Sheeting includes bamboo, Egyptian cotton and sateen fabrics in thread counts of 450-610, while bath towels are oversized and made from 100% Supima cotton.

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