Value fashion retailer details store closings, openings

Cato Corp. is shuttering more locations.

The Charlotte, N.C.-based value fashion retailer expects to close about 50 underperforming stores as part of its “ongoing practice to strengthen operations,” Cato stated in a release related to its recent annual shareholders meeting. It also plans to open 12 stores “despite limited new shopping center development and limited space in desirable, existing locations,” the company stated.

Cato's net income in 2018 was $30.5 million compared to $8.5 million in 2017. The company ended the year with more than $211 million in cash and investments – an increase of more than $10 million – and it remains debt-free.

"We view 2018 as a transition year for Cato, and we made significant progress," said John Cato, chairman, president and CEO. "We have stabilized our business, and we're cautiously optimistic about 2019."

In his address to shareholders, the CEO gave updates on three key initiatives:

• Expanding eCommerce: In 2018, Cato added 200,000 email subscribers, giving the company a total of more than 2 million. Cato also implemented additional shipping and payment methods for e-commerce customers.

• Building Internal Design Organization: This is allowing the company to offer more exclusive products, rather than relying solely on outside vendors.

• Sourcing Offices: Cato is strengthening its sourcing offices overseas to improve merchandise quality and speed up product development.

"We want shoppers to always consider our brands, because we meet their lifestyle needs," Cato said. "We've changed some of the merchandise we carry, and we've implemented strong, ongoing inventory control. We've lowered costs and strengthened our business."

As of March 2, 2019, Cato operates 1,308 stores in 31 states under three banners: Cato, Versona, and It's Fashion.