Customers responded to efforts to freshen up store merchandise during the fourth quarter as women’s specialty retailer Christopher & Banks works to turn around operations. Same-store sales were flat for the fourth quarter, while profit margins were up.
The Plymouth-based retailer on Wednesday reported net sales of $84.3 million, a decrease of 8.6 percent from a year earlier, which included an extra week of sales and nine additional stores. Adjusting for those factors resulted in a decline of 1.6 percent.
The retailer posted a net loss of $11.3 million, or 30 cents per share, widening a loss of $8.8 million or 23 cents per share last year.
Chief Executive Keri Jones said in a statement that the company showed positive comparable sales during the holiday shopping season. January temperatures curbed momentum that would have tilted sales into the low single digits, she said.
A former executive at Dick’s Sporting Goods and Target Corp., Jones took over as CEO of the long-struggling chain a year ago with a plan to improve customer loyalty and lower costs, including closing up to 40 stores by the end of 2019. The company now operates 460 locations.
Jones warned that sales in the current quarter continue to be below expectations, which she also blamed on snowy frigid weather across the Upper Midwest and Great Lakes, which reduced traffic.
Executives nonetheless maintained guidance for the year ahead. The retailer expects sales to increase 2 to 3 percent with expanded omnichannel capabilities, improved product assortment and enhanced marketing to its core customers.
During the fourth quarter, comparable online and digital sales increased 26 percent, more than doubling last year’s gain of 11.6 percent. Costs to fulfill online orders put pressure on profits, and company leaders said it is taking steps to improve ship-to-store efforts that reduce costs for retailers.
Christopher & Banks spent $1.5 million on capital expenditures in the fourth quarter compared to last year, doubling its spending to improve store technology and enhance its ability to handle online and digital sales.
For the year, same-store sales fell 4.6 percent. Adjusting for the extra week, the drop was 2.9 percent.
The net loss for the fiscal year reached $32.8 million, or 88 cents per share. That compares to last year’s loss of $22 million or 59 cents per share.
In December, Christopher & Banks rejected an unsolicited offer of 80 cents a share from a subsidiary of CSC Generation Holdings, the private Chinese-American venture capital firm that is reviving the Herberger’s brand.
Shares closed down about 23 percent to about 40 cents.