Dress Barn Cancels Upcoming Catalogs

Plummeting net income combined with single-digit decreases in net sales and comparable store sales were not the only negative news The Dress Barn, Inc., Suffern, NY, announced during its Nov. 15 fiscal first quarter conference call.

The specialty chain also said it would cancel its next two catalogs — its winter clearance catalog, right after Christmas, and the first spring book.

“On the catalog side, unfortunately, our performance here is below plan,” said vice chairman and chief operating officer David Jaffe. “We are disappointed with the results, some of which, frankly, may have been caused by system problems. We brought the catalog in house this fall and the start-up problems that we incurred have not yet been resolved. This will cause us to re-look at our spring plan.

“As a result of these system problems, we have elected not to establish functionality on the e-commerce portion of our Web site.”

Chief financial officer Armand Correia said the catalog lost more money in the fiscal first quarter this year than the same quarter last year.

Jaffe insisted that the company is committed to the catalog, but it seems that its re-emergence will not take place in the near future.

“We're going to spend a lot of time over the next six months thinking about that and figuring it out,” he said. “There's a lot of analysis that needs to be done. We really stubbed our toe this fall in terms of how we treated our customer … and we didn't deliver [customer service] on the catalog. Before we make any plans going forward, we need to fix the systems that prevented us from delivering strong customer service.

“Once we're confident that that's been resolved, then we'll go about planning how aggressive … we want to be in terms of the number of people we mail as well as the number of times we mail the catalog. The catalog is now a piece that reflects Dress Barn, the store. It is a supporting piece. “

Net income for the quarter ended Oct. 27 totaled $7.9 million compared to $12.8 million during the period ended Oct. 28, 2000. Net sales during the quarter fell 3 percent to $182.1 million in contrast with $188.3 million during the comparable period last year. Comparable store sales were down 8 percent.

“Our [fiscal] first quarter results were impacted by already declining comparable store sales even prior to the [Sept. 11 terrorist attacks],” said Elliot S. Jaffe, chairman and CEO. “Inventories are being well managed and are in line with current sales trends while costs are being tightly controlled. Our recently reported October comparable store sales decrease of 5 percent showed some improvement during the back half of the month. These results are encouraging as we head into the holiday season.”

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