Jos. A. Bank slips in snow, still manages strong month

February total sales up, same-store sales down

March 07, 2003|By Gus G. Sentementes | Gus G. Sentementes,SUN STAFF

The severe snowstorm over Presidents Day weekend kept shoppers away from Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc.'s stores, crimping February sales at stores open at least a year, the Hampstead-based men's apparel retailer said yesterday.

The company said that same-store sales - a key benchmark for retailers - decreased 1.9 percent last month.

But total sales for the retailer, which sells suits, casual clothing, sportswear, footwear and accessories, rose 7 percent, from $14.4 million to $15.4 million, as Bank gained additional sales from newly opened stores. Bank's catalog and Internet sales helped that gain with 15.9 percent increase.

"While you never like to see comparable store sales down, it's in our smallest month of the year," said Robert N. Wildrick, Bank's chief executive officer. "It shows the strength of the company: losing all those days [to snow] and being down only 2 percent."

Bank reported its monthly sales yesterday along with other national retail chains, which also blamed sales drops last month on severe weather in many parts of the country.

"Any retailer that's going to have a big presence on the East Coast was hurting," said Preston Silvey, an analyst with First Dallas Securities in Dallas. "Bank was hurt because their bread-and-butter is in New York, New Jersey and Maryland."

The market for men's clothing continues to be tough for many apparel retailers. Today's Man Inc., a 29-store chain in the Philadelphia, New York and Washington areas, was the latest men's apparel retailer to falter, filing for bankruptcy earlier this week. Bank's larger competitor - Men's Wearhouse Inc. - saw its same-store sales rise 0.5 percent at its U.S. stores. Men's Wearhouse has 575 stores across the country, and Bank has 166 stores that are concentrated on the East Coast.

Bank has plans to expand to up to 500 stores in the next three to four years.

The weather's impact on store sales "validates our program of expanding nationwide," said Wildrick. "As we get more and more diversified [geographically], we won't get these swings anymore."

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