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Jos. Bank sales rose by 20.3% in August


Jos. A. Bank Clothiers Inc., a Hampstead-based men's apparel retailer, defied an overall gloomy August for retailers to post a 14.6 percent sales increase in stores open at least a year.

Bank, which has 147 stores in 29 states, said sales rose in every major category, particularly in suits, shirts and sportswear.

Total sales jumped 20.3 percent last month to $14.3 million compared with $11.9 million in r the corresponding period a year earlier, Bank said. Combined catalog and Internet sales climbed 11.3 percent.

The results "give us the confidence to feel we'll have another record year," said Robert N. Wildrick, Bank's chief executive. "It further gives us encouragement that our growth program is working very well, and we might accelerate it. Obviously the customers like our product ... so we're very thrilled."

Bank is on course with an aggressive expansion plan that will add 25 stores this year, including 17 stores through the third and fourth quarters, and add at least 30 stores next year. Company officials have said that the chain could grow to 500 stores.

Sales were held back earlier this year by a low supply of merchandise, a result of the conservative approach that Bank took to planning its inventories after Sept. 11 and the economy's weakening last year.

"We're exceeding our sales plans," Wildrick said yesterday. "Our inventory is still a little behind where we'd like it to be."

Bank raised its full-year earnings-per-share estimate last month by a dime, to $1.35. It posted earnings per share last year of $1.05.

Michael M. Via, director of research for Anderson & Strudwick in Richmond, Va., said customers are responding positively to Bank's product offerings.

"It just appears to us that there's a continuation of [Bank] taking market share from other retailers," including Men's Wearhouse and department store chains, Via said.

Men's Wearhouse, based in Fremont, Calif., with 687 stores throughout the United States and Canada, reported yesterday a sales drop for last month.

Via, who has a buy rating on Bank's stock, said there's a good chance that Bank's earnings estimate for the year of $1.35 a share "would be a conservative number, and the [sales] numbers today reinforce that view."

Shares of Bank fell 20 cents yesterday to $18.55.

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