by Stephen Garner

bon-tonThe Bon-Ton Stores, Inc. has released disappointing third-quarter results along with the announcement that the company will close at least 40 location through 2018.

Comparable store sales in the third quarter of fiscal 2017 decreased 6.6 percent, reflecting in part the impact of unseasonably warm weather. Total sales in the period decreased 7.6 percent to $545.3 million, compared with $589.9 million in the third quarter of fiscal 2016.

The company continued its double-digit sales growth in omnichannel, which reflects sales via the company’s website, mobile site, and its “Let Us Find It” customer service program. This was driven by increased demand and conversion on both the company’s e-commerce and mobile platforms during the quarter as the company leveraged its West Jefferson facility and store-fulfillment network.

As a result of financial performance in the third quarter the company now expects fiscal 2017’s comparable sales decrease ranging from 4.5 percent to 5.5 percent, while loss per share is expected to be in a range of $2.86 to $3.35.

“While results in the third quarter fell short of our expectations, we are taking more aggressive actions to fuel improved performance as well as strengthen our financial position,” said William Tracy, president and chief executive officer. “We are executing with a sense of urgency as we work to enhance our merchandise assortment, drive growth in omnichannel, and implement a more focused marketing strategy to improve traffic and customer engagement. We are also focused on cost reductions through the continued rollout of our profit improvement initiatives.”

“In addition, we expect to implement a significant store rationalization program and plan to close at least 40 locations through 2018,” continued Tracy. “This will enable us to move forward with a more productive store footprint and redirect capital expenditures toward investments designed to drive sales growth. We are working with our advisors to proactively engage with our debt holders to establish a sustainable capital structure to support the business. We believe that the actions we are taking position us to drive improved and consistent financial performance over the long term. With our new merchandising initiatives in place and more seasonable November weather, we are already seeing a positive comparable store sales trend and believe we are well-positioned for a successful holiday season.”