York, PA—Bon-Ton Stores has seen its first-quarter losses narrow, boosted by higher sales and fewer markdowns.
The company, which operates 272 stores, said Thursday its net loss was $26.6 million, or $1.41 a share, for the quarter ending May 4, compared to a loss of $40.8 million, or $2.23 a share, in the same period the year before. That loss was less than the $1.57 a share analysts’ average expected.
Total sales edged up by 1% to $646.9 million from $640.8 million, while comparable store sales climbed 1.2%.
Gross margin improved 57 basis points to 34.8% from 34.3% last year, which the company attributed to a better balanced merchandise mix and “a more effective markdown strategy.”
“Our first quarter financial results reflect meaningful progress on our strategic initiatives. Comparable store sales increased in spite of inclement weather,” said Brendan Hoffman, president/ceo. “Enhancements to our e-commerce business again yielded double-digit sales growth while we saw increased penetration of proprietary credit card sales due to concentrated efforts to drive this business.”
Hoffman also credited the company with broadening its appeal especially to young contemporary customers including locating the junior department next to the rest of the ready-to-wear area.
“We continue to diversify our customer base as we embrace our core customer while extending out to reach the younger, updated customer,” Hoffman said.
The group also reaffirmed its fiscal 2013 guidance for earnings per share to be 40 cents to $1 a share. Analysts’ consensus expects 92 cents a share.