Bon-Ton Earnings, Forecast Down; Shares Sag

Bon-Ton Stores reported a wider third-quarter loss Thursday as sales declined, and the apparel and home furnishings retailer slashed its full-year outlook, sending its shares down more than 13 percent.

The company said business had improved since the beginning of November with the arrival of colder weather.

The operator of Elder-Beerman, Boston Store and Carson Pirie Scott stores said the loss for the quarter that ended Nov. 3, was $19.4 million, or $1.17 a share, compared with a loss of $10.9 million, or 66 cents a share, a year earlier.

Sales fell 3 percent to $780.8 million in the quarter.

The York, Pa.-based retailer, which also operates stores under the Younkers name, said combined sales at stores open at least a year for Bon-Ton and Carson's fell 3 percent.

Bon-Ton doubled its size by buying the Carson's store group and five Parisian outlets last year and has been working to integrate the acquisitions. Bon-Ton operates 280 stores in the Northeast and Midwest US.

The retailer said it now expects full-year profit in the range of $1.50 to $1.80 a share with sales anticipated rising 1.3 percent to 1.7 percent.

Bon-Ton had warned in October that it would not achieve a previously stated full-year forecast, and said Thursday that it expects the retail environment to remain soft with shoppers seeing plenty of discounting throughout the holiday season.

In August, Bon-Ton Stores had forecast annual profit of $2.75 to $2.90 a share.

But Bon-Ton said business, which had been hurt by unseasonably high temperatures in September and October, had improved in early November with the arrival of cooler weather.

Analysts currently expect full-year profit of $1.73 a share, according to Reuters Estimates.