Eddie Bauer Drags Down Spiegel Earnings

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Sluggish sales at Spiegel's Eddie Bauer stores have contributed to a first-quarter loss for the Internet and catalog retailer, company officials said.

Spiegel, Downers Grove, IL, reported a net loss of $12.2 million, or 9 cents per share, for its first quarter, compared with earnings of $20.2 million, or 15 cents per share, a year earlier. First-quarter 2000 results excluded the effect of an accounting charge.

Total revenue for the quarter, which ended March 31, declined 3 percent from the year-ago period to $749.6 million. Sales at its Eddie Bauer stores fell 10 percent from first quarter 2000.

Margin growth achieved by the company's Newport News and Spiegel divisions was offset by lower margins at Eddie Bauer. Eddie Bauer's margin decline was driven by higher markdowns than last year.

The news was expected, said James Sievers, Spiegel's chief financial officer. Last year the catalog retailer enjoyed strong first-quarter results. This year, however, the company warned of a difficult quarter because of the downturn in the economy.

"We experienced higher charge-offs in our credit card businesses, and customer response in each of our merchant companies was relatively weak," Sievers said. "Clearly, the economy has negatively affected consumer behavior and our financial results."


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