FINANCE

Charming Shoppes to sell off Fashion Bug, add 125 Lane Bryant stores

BY Katherine Boccaccio

Bensalem, Pa. — Charming Shoppes reported Thursday that its loss in the 3Q narrowed to $13 million from a loss of $18.8 million a year earlier. Revenue in the quarter dropped to $429.7 million, from $463.6 million last year, and same-store sales decreased 4%.

The retailer said it is conducting a strategic review of its operations, which includes the divestiture of its Fashion Bug business and the expansion of its Lane Bryant brand.

“While we have made progress in improving Fashion Bug’s profitability, we believe that it does not fit within our future strategic plan,” said Anthony M. Romano, president and CEO.

Charming Shoppes has engaged Barclays Capital as its financial advisor to assist in the process, but has not yet given a timeline for the sale of Fashion Bug or commented on any other courses of action that could be taken after the strategic review.

As part of the growth of its Lane Bryant flagship brand, Romano said the company will add 125 new Lane Bryant locations and relocate 125 mall stores to power strip and lifestyle centers. It will close about 50 stores upon lease expiration. As part of the plan, it will also push the Cacique intimate apparel label and pursue innovative digital sales initiatives.

The store additions will expand the Lane Bryant footprint to approximately 900 stores, comprised of 750 full-line Lane Bryant stores and 150 Lane Bryant Outlet locations.

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Kroger posts 32 consecutive quarters of comp sales gains

BY CSA STAFF

CINCINNATI, Ohio — Kroger posted its 32nd consecutive of same-store sales gains as the grocer continues to grab market share due to a combination of a customer service initiative and value pricing.

"On-going market share gains are a product of Kroger’s Customer First strategy, where the company focuses on driving cost savings to reinvest in its four keys: prices, people, products and shopping experience," said Charles Grom, Deutsche Bank research analyst. "We believe the company has been particularly focused on investing in price and driving a pricing gap with conventional competitors. … The company’s lower prices are increasingly important to today’s more value-focused consumer."

During a recent price survey conducted by Credit Suisse in the Chicago and Dallas markets, Walmart has been widening its price gab between competitors with two exceptions — one of them being Kroger (the other being Target).

Kroger on Thursday reported a third-quarter sales increase of 10.3% to $20.6 billion, including fuel. For the period ended Nov. 5, total sales excluding fuel were up 5.1% over last year, the grocer reported.

Identical supermarket sales, without fuel, increased 5% in the third quarter over the same period last year.

Coming out of the third quarter, Kroger increased its diluted earnings per share guidance to $1.95 to $2.00 for the full year. Previously, the range was $1.85 to $1.95. The company also raised the low end of its identical supermarket sales growth guidance, excluding fuel, to 4.5% to 5% for the year. Previously, identical supermarket sales were expected to range from 4% to 5%.

Kroger also is bullish looking ahead to 2012, in part because of the generic wave that’s coming. "In terms of pharmacy, we’re just delighted with our trend and where we are," said Rodney McMullen, Kroger’s president and COO. "As you look out to 2012, there’s a lot of major drugs that will move out to generics. … The growth profit rate will be helpful."

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FINANCE

Express Q3 profit up 24%

BY Staff Writer

Columbus, Ohio — Express Inc. reported Thursday that profit for the quarter ended Oct. 29 climbed 24% to $32.7 million, from $26.3 million in the year-ago period.

Revenue increased 8% to $486.8 million, just missing Wall Street’s expected $488.2 million, and same-store sales increase 5%.

Online sales surged 41%.

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