Bon-Ton misses mark on holiday sales

Comparable store sales fall 1.5 percent

Bon-Ton
Bon-Ton will liquidate.

The Bon-Ton Stores Inc. today reported its comparable store sales for the nine-week holiday shopping season fell by 1.5 percent from the same time in 2014.

Bon-Ton
The Bon-Ton Stores Inc. headquarters in downtown Milwaukee.

The results also missed the guidance Bon-Ton gave on Nov. 19 by 1.6 percent.

“We saw a significant improvement in holiday sales following soft selling trends during an unseasonably warm November,” said Kathryn Bufano, president and chief executive officer of Bon-Ton. “The rebound began with a successful Black Friday event and extended through the month of December. We also drove double-digit sales growth in our omnichannel operations, successfully leveraging our new West Jefferson facility and store-fulfillment network. Based on current sales trends, we are maintaining our full-year adjusted EBITDA guidance of a range of $110 million to $120 million, exclusive of implementation costs associated with planned expense reductions in fiscal 2016. We expect to be at the low end of this range given the higher level of promotional activity, particularly in seasonal goods. The decrease in sales of cold-weather merchandise, in fact, exceeded increases we otherwise achieved in non-seasonal merchandise categories. That said, overall we are pleased to see the traction we are gaining on some of our merchandising initiatives and will remain focused on continued execution while prudently managing our inventory levels and expenses.”

The retailer, which has dual headquarters in Milwaukee and York, Pa., operates 270 stores in 26 states under the Boston Store, Bon-Ton, Bergners, Carson’s, Elder-Beerman, Herberger’s and Younkers brands.

Bon-Ton has struggled in recent years, and reported a net loss of $34 million in the third quarter. This week, a story in The Wall Street Journal said New York-based private equity firm Sycamore Partners, which acquired Charlotte, N.C.-based Belk Inc. in December, has approached Bon-Ton Stores about combining Belk with Bon-Ton.

The company will provide more details about its fourth quarter and full year results on March 15.

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Molly Dill, former BizTimes Milwaukee managing editor.

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