Jos. A. Bank loss laid to weak sales; Slow September adds to $236,000 deficit in third quarter


Men's apparel chain Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc. reported a third-quarter loss yesterday of 3 cents per share, blaming the results partly on weak suit sales in September.

Bank posted a net loss of $236,000 for the quarter that ended Oct. 30. That compared with a gain of $873,000, or 13 cents per share, from continuing operations during the third quarter last year. It was the first loss for the Hampstead-based retailer since the fourth quarter of 1997.

The 1998 results exclude a one-time tax benefit of 20 cents per share. With the tax benefit, the recent quarter's loss would compare with earnings of 33 cents per share in last year's third quarter.

The company blamed the loss on weak third-quarter sales. Same-store sales, those at locations open at least a year, fell 6.2 percent. Total sales also decreased, by 1.9 percent to $43.7 million, the company reported earlier in the month.

"That occurred principally in September, a portion of it related to the weather, with more than half our stores being in the path of the hurricane," said David Ullman, chief financial officer. Sales also fell because of a general softness in men's tailored clothing, primarily suits, he said. Catalog sales fell after the company decided to delay some of its mailings until the fourth quarter.

"On a year- to-date [basis], when you exclude the one-time charges, we've made money, although it's not as high as last year," Ullman said.

For the first nine months of the fiscal year, the company earned 11 cents per share, or $763,000. That compared with earnings of 33 cents per share, or $2.3 million, for the first nine months of the previous fiscal year.

The company also said it will incur a charge of about $400,000, or 6 cents per share, in the fourth quarter. About $266,666 was paid to former President Frank Tworecke, who left the company this month, after Robert N. Wildrick was named as Bank's new chief executive officer. The rest was the cost of discontinuing a corporate logo apparel business that the retailer had rolled out over the summer.

"We really want to focus on other parts of the business, and that is not an area we want to invest in as a start-up business," Ullman said.

Wildrick said yesterday that he expects the fourth quarter to be profitable, though results will be below those of the fourth quarter of 1998.

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