Apparel retail company Ascena Group, which runs Ann Taylor, Maurices, Dress Barn, Lane Bryant and other specialty apparel chains, late Monday reported fiscal second quarter losses of $35.2 million, or 18 cents per share (7 cents per share adjusted), up from $22.6 million or 12 cents per share in the year-ago period.
Ascena posted Q2 net sales of $1.75 billion, compared to $1.84 billion in the year-ago period. Same-store sales fell 4%.
Some Ascena segments performed better than others: Loft is outpacing Ann Taylor in the women's apparel space, with a 2% decline in Q2 same-store sales and revenue of $401 million compared to Ann Taylor’s 9% drop in same-store sales and $206 million in revenue. In the discount apparel segment, Dressbarn’s same-store sales fell 3% while Maurices plunged 8%.
Ascena’s brands have struggled for a while now, but shares edged up Tuesday morning as the company managed to edge out expectations. In the recent past, CEO David Jaffe has blamed outside forces — e.g., the weather and the election — for the tough retail environment, but in a statement Monday, with declines slowing somewhat, his focus was a more macro view of the customer.
"Reflecting on our second quarter results, we saw a continuation of trends that have been in place for some time,” Jaffe said. “While we remain generally pleased with selling performance during peaks, our base business remained soft due to ongoing store traffic headwinds and overall customer price sensitivity, which have become persistent issues impacting our larger sector. While our second quarter comp sales were in line with our guidance, we were forced to be much more promotional than planned to achieve this level of performance.”
Ascena has stepped up its efforts online and in omnichannel — a particular challenge for apparel retailers, which are more dependent on the “touch and feel” experience for shoppers, but an effort that Jaffe says is necessary considering the obvious influence of e-commerce.
“We’ve invested heavily in our omnichannel platform over a multi-year period, and we continue to aggressively evolve our organization to embrace and serve customers in this new retailing paradigm,” he said. “Yet, there is much more to do. As part of our Change for Growth transformation work, we are developing advanced analytics and customer experience management capabilities that will enhance our opportunities to drive revenue and margin. We continue to aggressively pursue cost structure opportunities, including refinement of our operating model and our ongoing fleet optimization work.”