Bebe Stores falls to a loss in the 4th quarter

Weak sales and lower profit margins drag Bebe Stores to a loss for 4th quarter

Associated Press

BRISBANE, Calif. (AP) -- Bebe Stores Inc. slid to a loss for its fiscal fourth quarter as the clothing retailer faced weaker sales and lower profit margins.

After an extended period of weak sales, bebe is trying to make itself more attractive to shoppers with products that are more on-target with trends. CEO Steve Birkhold said that 2013 is a transformational year for the company, with changes in leadership, strategy and positioning of its brand.

Birkhold said bebe has gotten a good response from customers on the new merchandise, as well as its new marketing campaign and Website redesign.

The women's clothing chain is still clearing out some of its existing merchandise to make room for its fall and holiday season. It has already started selling products that reflect its new merchandising strategy. But the shift, which included markdowns, took a toll on its profitability in the most recent quarter.

Bebe reported after the market closed Thursday that it booked a loss of $20.8 million, or 26 cents per share, for the three-month period that ended July 6. That is compared with net income of $3 million, or 4 cents per share, in the fourth quarter last year.

After adjusting for store impairment and closure costs, expenses tied to changes in leadership and other unusual items, it posted a loss of 14 cents per share in the most recent period.

Bebe's total revenue slipped to $119.2 million from $131.5 million.

Analysts were anticipating a loss of 14 cents per share on an adjusted basis with revenue of $118.7 million.

The company said it expects a first-quarter loss in the low to mid-teens per share. Analysts are forecasting a loss of 12 cents per share, on average.

Bebe did not issue a full-year earnings outlook, but did say that it plans to close 15 stores and open three new ones.

Shares of the Brisbane, Calif., company lost a penny in after-hours trading following the report to hit $5.98. Its stock added 10 cents to close regular trading at $5.99.

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