Jos. A. Bank sales rise 8.6% at stores open at least a year

Men's clothing chain rebounded in July after 3.7% decline in June

August 09, 2002|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

With more clothes on the racks, sales at Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. rebounded last month after low inventory crimped the previous month's numbers.

The Hampstead-based men's apparel retailer said yesterday that sales at stores open at least one year - a key measure of a retailer's performance - rose 8.6 percent last month.

Overall sales at the company's 143 stores across the country were up 17.9 percent in the month, to $13.3 million from $11.3 million in July last year.

The company also announced that total sales in its fiscal second quarter rose 12.5 percent, to $51.87 million from $46.1 million in last year's quarter. Same-store sales in the quarter increased 1.3 percent, the company said.

Chief Executive Officer Robert N. Wildrick said that when Bank announces second-quarter earnings Aug. 20, he is confident that earnings will be "significantly better" than last year's. Bank earned 5 cents a share in the second quarter last year.

Analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research Inc. expect Bank to earn 11 cents a share in this year's second quarter.

Bank's shares yesterday rose $1.85, or nearly 15 percent, to close at $14.51 on the Nasdaq stock market.

Wildrick said the company's inventory - which was planned conservatively after Sept. 11 - is slowly inching back to keep pace with demand. The company said last month that low inventory was a key factor in a 3.7 percent same-store sales drop in June.

Inventory is still 8 percent to 10 percent lower than it should be, Wildrick said.

"We didn't think sales were going to be as good as they turned out to be," Wildrick said, particularly at the beginning of the year.

One bright spot recently has been Bank's VIP line of casual clothing for spring and summer, a version of which will also be offered in the fall, Wildrick said.

Monthly sales at apparel chains have been sluggish, particularly at one of Bank's larger competitors, Men's Wearhouse Inc., which posted a 10.5 percent decline yesterday in same-store sales for last month.

Preston Silvey, a retail analyst for First Dallas Securities, said demand still exists for Bank's corporate casual lines.

"The first quarter they had stronger than they expected sales, and it's hard to get some of their inventory in quickly," he said. "It takes them longer than a department store, which can buy shirts from all different vendors ... whereas Bank makes them," he said.

Continued demand for Bank's corporate and casual lines - and a recent trend toward more suit-buying - is driving the company's expansion plans.

The company added 21 stores last year and plans to add 23 to 25 this year and at least 30 next year.

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