For the quarter ended Oct. 27, the women’s specialty retailer posted a net loss of $3.8 million, or 6 cents a share, compared with a year-earlier loss of $9 million, or 15 cents a share. The 2011 quarter period a $2.5 million charge to income tax expense related to an additional valuation allowance.
Total sales rose 1.2% $219.3 million. Comparable store sales edged up 0.7% compared with a 5.2% decline a year ago.
Analysts’ average estimate expected a loss of 7 cents a share on sales of $216 million.
“Our results were driven by continued strength in our wear-to-work business – a core equity of our brand – along with successful events throughout the quarter that were supported by strategic investments in our marketing initiatives,” said Gregory Scott, chief executive.
Operating loss was $3.8 million compared to a loss of $6 million in third quarter last year. Gross margin widened to 27.8% from 24.7%. Total inventories fell 3.7% from a year ago, too.
Scott said the company was off to a strong holiday season with “a strong response to our well-planned Black Friday and Cyber Monday events which resulted in sales and margin gains” though they were partially offset by the impact of Hurricane Sandy earlier in the month.
“This year our holiday assortment includes a stronger balance of gifting, fashion, and key items to satisfy our customers’ needs while addressing the broader audience that shops our stores during these peak traffic periods,” Scott added.
The company projected its fourth quarter comparable store sales to be flat to slightly up from a year ago.