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Bon-Ton lags less in Q3

Retail Editor 1 -- Home Textiles Today, November 21, 2013

York, Pa. - Comps and sales declined but net loss significantly narrowed for The Bon-Ton Stores during the third quarter, creating a mixed bag of results before the all-important holiday selling season.

Total sales for the 13 weeks dipped 2.6% to $651.2 million from $668.7 million in Q3 2012. Still, in the case of comps - which declined 2.8% -- Bon-Ton called the rate "meaningful improvement" over recent periods.

As Brendan Hoffman, president and ceo, put it: "Despite a challenging environment we were pleased with the improved comparable store sales trends toward the end of the third quarter. We saw our sales results improve as the quarter progressed, and end with a slightly positive comp in October - the first since Q1."

Net loss was dramatically reduced by about 90% to $900,000, or $0.05 per diluted share, compared with a net loss of $10.1 million, or $0.55 per diluted share, for the third quarter of fiscal 2012.

Year-to-date results included: a 2.6% decline in total sales to $1.85 billion from $1.90 billion a year ago; a 2.6% dip in comps; and a net loss improvement of 31% to $64.9 million, or $3.40 per diluted share, compared to $95.96 million, or $5.20 per diluted hare.

Hoffman credited "strong performances in a number of key merchandise categories where we increased our investment," giving Bon-Ton cause to expect it will remain "on track with our strategic initiatives." Home, however, was not cited as one of them.

He added the company's e-commerce business "continues to grow at a healthy pace, benefiting from traffic-driving initiatives and our broader merchandise assortment."

Cautiously encouraged by it soft yet improved performance duringthe third quarter, Bon-Ton is "looking forward to the holiday selling season."

Hoffman said the stores are stocked with "a fresh and inspired merchandise assortment that offers our customers quality and value in an exciting shopping environment. Our marketing campaign is designed to entice shoppers into our stores and to our e-commerce site. We will continue to roll out our localization strategies to drive store productivity and we will maintain inventory management and cost controls as we execute this new strategy."

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