Bon-Ton braces for tough holiday
December 2, 2002,
The Bon-Ton Stores is maintaining low expectations for the holiday season, faced with a calendar yielding fewer holiday shopping days in a challenging retail environment. Sales are expected to be flat to up a point, said vice chairman and chief merchandising officer Frank Tworecke, during the company's third quarter conference call last month.
For the third quarter, the home area was even with last year's performance, Tworecke said. Sales overall, which decreased on a third-quarter total and comp-store basis by 4.6 percent, were also affected by the decrease in seasonal clearance merchandise, he said, though the company netted improved gross margins.
Currently with 73 department store locations, the Bon-Ton may open one new unit next year, it said. However, over the past several years, the company spent a "disproportionate" amount of capital on opening new stores — nine within 18 months, Baireuther said, six of which are performing reasonably well. Now it has refocused its growth strategy from opening new units to improving the existing ones. "The request for capital in our core stores and corporate structure … is greater than the capital that's available. We have tradeoffs to make." Baireuther also said The Bon-Ton is very open to making an acquisition if the right opportunity arises.