Bank sales are a record

Clothier continues to reverse slump with a $30.4 million Dec.

Web, catalog sales do well

Menswear

January 04, 2000|By Lorraine Mirabella | Lorraine Mirabella,SUN STAFF

Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. broke monthly sales records in December as it continued reversing a sales slump from earlier last year, the retailer said yesterday.

The Hampstead-based men's specialty chain reported total sales of $30.4 million -- the highest ever in a single month.

Sales at stores open at least a year -- a key indicator of financial health -- jumped 9 percent, one of the biggest increases on a month-over-month basis in the past two years.

"It's one of the best percentage increases we've ever had," said Robert N. Wildrick, chief executive officer.

The booming economy has given most retailers a banner year and the best holiday season of a decade. While Jos. Bank benefited from consumers' brisk spending, the retailer has also been able to price its merchandise more aggressively, Wildrick said.

"We reviewed all the items, and the merchants reviewed all the items and priced them aggressively without giving up profit," Wildrick said yesterday.

Because its percentage of gross profit remained stable in December and sales increased, the company is generating higher gross profit, Wildrick said. Bank's fiscal fourth quarter runs through January.

"Due to increased sales, inventory is coming into line much faster than we had planned, which is positive for future profitability," Wildrick said.

He also noted that Internet sales grew by 791 percent without hurting the catalog division, where sales remained even.

"Being a multichanneled retailer, we are able to offer the best of all worlds to our customers, and the December results showed that," he said.

The gains last month and in November -- when same-store sales rose 5.7 percent -- follow a third quarter in which sales fell 6.2 percent at locations open at least a year and total sales dipped 1.9 percent. The retailer had posted a net loss of $236,000 for the quarter, which ended Oct. 30. It was the first loss since the fourth quarter of 1997.

After Bank reported November sales results, analysts had said the chain should be well positioned to take advantage of shifts in the men's apparel industry.

Menswear sales are being driven by the need to replace worn suits, rather than by fashion garments, according to retail analysts.

In December, sales of better tailored clothing at Bank rose significantly, Wildrick said.

Wildrick, chief executive officer since November, is in the midst of developing a strategy to reverse a mostly disappointing year.

Earnings sank 12 percent in the second quarter, and the company reported a third-quarter loss of 3 cents per share.

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