Woodward & Lothrop Inc., a troubled Alexandria, Va.-based department store chain, told suppliers and creditors in a letter this week that it recorded a sales gain in 1992 for the first time in three years. The company also said its operating cash flow had improved by 37 percent.
Joseph Gallucci, Woodies' chief financial officer, said the improved figures were an indication that the worst was over for the retailer, which operates Philadelphia's Wanamakers department stores in addition to Woodies.
"We're positioned for a new period of long-term growth," he said. "We really feel very good about 1992."
But it could be a long time before Woodies, which operates three stores in metropolitan Baltimore, can survive without Alfred Taubman's money machine. Mr. Taubman, a Detroit-based real estate developer, has pumped about $200 million into the company over the past five years.
Mr. Gallucci said Woodies' sales upturn reflected the completion of a $200 million store renovation program that had disrupted sales. The chain's $855.3 million in 1992 sales represented a gain of $17 million, or 2 percent, over 1991.
The company said its operating cash flow, which doesn't include interest payments, came to $38.3 million in 1992, a gain of $10.4 million.
Mr. Gallucci said the company does not disclose net earnings. Given the company's heavy interest payments, however, it was unlikely that Woodies posted a profit for the year.
Alan G. Millstein, publisher of the Fashion Network Report in New York, said suppliers would not be very impressed by the letter, the existence of which was reported in yesterday's Washington Post.
"So what does the letter mean? Nothing," he said. "They carefully avoid discussion of profitability."