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Spiegel sales drop leads to 3Q loss

With retail sales tumbling in the midst of mounting consumer uncertainty — and hobbled by mounting bad-debt charge-offs in its big credit business — Spiegel Inc. recorded a third-quarter loss of $12.3 million, compared with a year-before profit of $13.5 million.

Overall sales at Spiegel, including retail and credit revenues, tumbled by 12.9 percent, to $703.8 million from $807.5 million last year, a drop of more than $100 million. Retail sales at the direct-mail retailer fell by 10.8 percent, to $574.7 million from $644.0 million a year ago, with each of the company's four merchant divisions reporting sales weakness. Direct-mail sales were off by 13 percent, while sales in bricks-and-mortar stores fell by 7 percent. Internet sales continued to provide a big lift, jumping up by 42 percent.

Particularly hard hit was the Eddie Bauer division, where same-store sales fell by 15 percent, offset somewhat by sales growth in its outlet stores.

Putting earnings under further pressure, margins narrowed by 180 basis points, to 34.2 percent from 36.0 percent a year ago, due mostly to higher markdowns and additional marketing promotions at Eddie Bauer. But continued cost-cutting provided some measure of relief, and overhead was pared by 7.1 percent, to $326.8 million from $351.8 million last year, a cash savings of $25.0 million.

Going forward, the company remains cautious, said James Cannataro, executive vp and cfo. "In planning holiday season demand, we took a conservative approach in our inventory commitments. We expect the retail environment to remain challenging in the fourth quarter. As a result, we have intensified marketing promotions and will continue to tightly manage expenses."

Spiegel Inc.

Qtr. 9/29 (x000) 2001 2000 % CHG
(loss)
a-Total sales, including retail sales, finance and other revenues.
b-Third-quarter results include an income-tax benefit of $7.2 million, compared with a year-ago tax provision of $7.9 million. Nine-month results include an income-tax benefit of $11.4 million vs. a prior-year tax provision of $35.0 million. The 2000 nine-month period included a $4.1 million non-cash accounting charge stemming form a change in accounting.
Sales $703,752a $807,544a -12.9
Oper. income (EBIT) (1,387) 43,573
Net income (12,305)b 13,471b
Per share (diluted) (0.09) 0.10
Average gross margin 34.2% 36.0%
SG&A expenses 56.9% 54.6%
Nine months
Sales 2,278,989a 2,440,876a -6.6
Oper. income 24,633 146,692 -83.2
Net income (19,518)b 55,450b
Per share (diluted) (0.15) 0.42
Average gross margin 36.0% 37.5%
SG&A expenses 57.1% 53.2%


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