Francesca's on Tuesday said that second quarter net sales fell 6% to $106 million from $113 million in the year-ago quarter.
Comparable sales fell 5%, due to lower average unit prices from "deeper markdowns on legacy product," partially offset by higher conversion rates and average units per transaction, according to a press release.
Gross profit as a percent of net sales fell to 38.2% from 39% a year ago because the deeper markdowns lowered margins. Net income rose to $1.8 million from $0.5 million in the prior-year quarter. The company opened one store and closed five during the period for a total of 718.
Francesca's has been somewhat preoccupied with executive turnover and a scramble to maneuver challenges like a looming stock market de-listing and a possible hostile takeover.
But shares rose Tuesday after the retailer, on its own after failing to find a buyer, demonstrated signs of life in its second quarter.
"We are very pleased to see significant improvement in our comparable sales for the second quarter," Interim CEO Michael Prendergast said in a statement. "After a long period of double digit comp sales declines we achieved considerable sequential improvement in our comp sales in each month within the quarter."
While gross margin was hit hard by what Prendergast characterized as "aggressive markdowns on poor performing legacy products," Francesca's stores had better-than-expected sell through on new merchandise, he also said. The company has sped up its reaction and merchandising planning time, using data analytics and responding to customer demand, and has cut costs, he said.
Selling, general and administrative expenses fell 10% to $39.1 million from $43.3 million last year, the company noted in its release. Adjusted SG&A in the quarter was $38.7 million, excluding $0.5 million in payroll costs associated with its turnaround. It also reported $0.3 million in fees connected to the reverse stock split the company undertook to keep trading shares and its adoption of a shareholder rights plan, plus $0.3 million of stock-based compensation reversal associated with the July departure of CFO Kelly Dilts.