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Losses continue, but more slowly Coming 90 days are critical to Merry-Go-Round


The red ink continued to spread at Merry-Go-Round Enterprises Inc. as the apparel retailer reported yesterday a net loss of $28 million, or 52 cents a share, for the second quarter.

But the losses were less than those sustained for the same period last year.

The Joppa-based chain, operating under bankruptcy protection since January 1994, lost $37.9 million, or 70 cents a share, for the same quarter a year ago.

"The hemorrhaging has slowed but it has not stopped," said Alan G. Millstein, editor and publisher of the Fashion Network Report in New York.

For the six months ended July 29, Merry-Go-Round lost $47.2 million, or 88 cents per share, compared with a loss of $62 million, or $1.15 per share, for the same period last year.

It could get better.

The latest report does not reflect the company's reliance on back-to-school sales in August and, more importantly, the Christmas selling season.

"The next 90 days are going to be a critical period in the outcome of this bankruptcy, whether the holiday season can pull their store groups out of this morass," Mr. Millstein said.

The next three months will also give the first hint of the impact of new chief executive Richard P. Crystal, who was hired July 10 to reverse the fortunes of the chain of about 975 stores.

The turn-around has been long in coming.

The last time the chain registered a gain in sales in stores open for at least a year was December 1992.

Sales at Merry-Go-Round dropped 28.8 percent to $125.4 million for the quarter, compared with $176 million over the same period last year.

Sales for the six-month period declined by 28.5 percent to $246.8 million, compared with $345 million for the same period last year.

The fall in sales was due in part to the closing of hundreds of stores since the company filed for bankruptcy.

For the quarter and half, Merry-Go-Round did not report sales in stores open for at least a year, a key gauge of performance because it factors out shuttered stores.

Mr. Crystal could not be reached for comment.

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