Jos. Bank posts $4.2 million loss


Jos. A. Bank Clothiers, hemmed in by poor sales and the expense of phasing out its line of women's wear, reported yesterday a $4.2 million loss for its latest reporting period.

But company officials are looking ahead: Next week, they plan to unveil a new line of men's casual clothing that they hope will reinvigorate and refocus the company.

In the three months that ended April 29, though, the bad news was widespread.

Aside from the women's division, Chairman and Chief Executive Timothy F. Finley said, Bank was hurt by soft sales in men's clothing in February and March, weaker catalog sales because of increased postage and paper costs and a sluggish performance at new stores -- over 20 opened in the past 18 months.

Poor sales in men's suits also hurt the company's margins, the spread between the retail price and wholesale cost.

If not for the losses associated with the women's unit, the company still would have come up about $1 million short of breaking even, Mr. Finley said. "Anything that could go wrong did," he said.

On a per-share basis, the Hampstead-based clothier lost 62 cents for the latest quarter, compared with a gain of 20 cents, or $1 million profit, for the same period last year. Bank reported $4.6 million in pretax charges, chiefly due to poor sales and the women's apparel phase out. Overall sales increased 1.5 percent, to $44.4 million, but sales at stores open at least a year dropped nearly 8 percent for the quarter.

More losses are expected to follow. "The second quarter may be difficult for the same transitional reasons," Mr. Finley said.

Bank, operating 83 stores in 36 states, decided in early May to phase out its women's wear division by January 1996. The

women's division, never as profitable as the men's, started losing money in mid-1994. "It wasn't a question of should we do it, it was a question of when," said Matthew R. Kahn, Bank's executive vice president and chief financial officer.

Now, 60 percent of Bank's estimated 500,000 square feet of retail space is devoted to men's suits and other office garb and 40 percent to women's and sportswear. The women's line, accounting for 18 percent of Bank's sales, will be substituted by men's casual wear, which the company expects will bring in about 20 percent of total sales at higher profit margins.

The new men's line will be presented Wednesday morning at the company's annual shareholders' meeting at the Sheraton Inner Harbor Hotel.

The casual wear, debuting in stores around August, features soft jackets, knit shirts, sweaters, turtlenecks, mock turtlenecks, corduroy slacks, denim shirts and blue jeans, among others.

The company is planning to spend $7 million to buy the casual wear from suppliers in Europe, Asia and South America as well as the United States. Bank also expects to spend more than $1 million on new store displays, tables, stands and other fixtures.

"I have a fairly high confidence level this is going to work," Mr. Finley said.

Company earnings were released yesterday after markets closed. Bank ended the day at $2.625 per share, up 12.5 cents.

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