Bakers Sees Bright Spots for Fall Biz

NEW YORK — After narrowing its losses in the second quarter, Bakers Footwear Group Inc. aims to gain momentum with full-price fall selling.

The St. Louis-based company said that, despite a challenging sales environment in August, September comparable-store sales were up more than 5 percent through Labor Day, thanks to excitement in the boot classification.

“As we transition more of our assortment to fall, our boot results have us optimistic regarding our ability to maintain positive comp-store sales for the remainder of the year,” Peter Edison, chairman and CEO of Bakers, said during a conference call. “We’ll continue to focus on interpreting current trends for our fashion-conscious customers and increasing the allocation of our Bakers private-label styles in our stores.”

The company was able to reduce operational expenses and inventory during the second quarter, turning in a loss of $1.7 million, or 24 cents a share, versus a loss of $2.3 million, or 32 cents, in the year-ago period.

Sales inched up to $43.7 million for the quarter, from $43.6 million in the second quarter of 2008, while comp-store sales rose 0.7 percent, compared with a 6.4 percent increase last year.

The retailer ended the second quarter with negative working capital of $15.4 million, $2.8 million of which is scheduled to be repaid over the next 12 months. Bakers also announced amended terms of its revolving credit agreements with Bank of America and its subordinated secured term loan.

Still, the company reiterated its ongoing liquidity constraints, which it has been battling since early 2008.

In a Securities and Exchange Commission filing, Bakers noted that its “losses in the first half of fiscal-year 2009 and recent years had a significant negative impact on the company’s financial position and liquidity.”

However, according to the filing, the company has a business plan in place which “should improve overall gross margin performance compared to fiscal year 2008.”

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