Ann Taylor sees Q3 sales increase; company plans 2011 e-comm venture

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Women's clothing retailer Ann Taylor reported strong e-commerce sales in the third quarter, up 57% to $52.4 million from the previous year. Online sales at its Loft brand were up 60% from the prior year to $66.6 million in the quarter.

The company's total net sales increased 9% year-over-year in Q3 to $505.3 million. Bricks and mortar sales grew 19.4% at Ann Taylor stores in the quarter ending October 30, and in-store sales increased by 1.6% at Loft stores during the period.

The company reported operating income of $41.4 million in Q3, up from $18.7 million in the third quarter of 2009. Its net income was $24.5 million in the period, compared to less than half that, $12 million, in Q3 of 2009.

“We saw a trend during the third quarter of store customers migrating to being more multi-channel customers, which is a trend that we are probably going to continue to see,” said Kay Krill, president and CEO of Ann Taylor, on a November 19 earnings call. “We continue to see significant growth in this channel.”

She added that both Ann Taylor brands will continue to expand their exclusive online offerings and increase their investment in digital media and online marketing to drive traffic next year.

The company will also launch an e-commerce platform next year with a simpler checkout process and social media capabilities allowing customers to post reviews and comment on products, said Krill. Ann Taylor will also begin to ship internationally next year, she said.

Krill also credited the company's marketing efforts for enhancing consumer awareness of the brand.

“Ann Taylor's multi-pronged strategy continues to successfully support our objective of delivering profitable sales growth,” said Krill, pointing to the recent campaign featuring Naomi Watts, as well as an effort featuring Heidi Klum that will roll out for this holiday season. “[We are] utilizing a combination of direct outreach, advertising and PR to enhance the brand's visibility.”

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