Rough First Quarter for Talbots

In announcing The Talbots’ first-quarter results, chairman/president/CEO Arnold Zetcher admitted that “we are clearly disappointed.” Among other figures, total comparable store sales fell 3.5% from the first quarter of 2006. Same-store sales for Talbots stores declined 4%, while J. Jill same-store sales dropped 1%.

Total sales for the quarter were $573.6 million, compared with $453.0 million a year ago. But last year’s first-quarter figures did not include revenue from women’s apparel brand J. Jill, which Talbots acquired last spring. Catalog and Web sales rose 55%, to $105.6 million, but again last year’s numbers did not include J. Jill.

“While outperforming stores, our direct business, for The Talbots brand specifically, was negatively impacted by the same factors that affected our store traffic and sales,” Zetcher said in a statement. Those factors included ‘adverse weather” and disappointing response to Talbots’ casual apparel.

“For J. Jill, the direct business continues to be very difficult, with catalog performance significantly below our initial plan,” Zetcher continued. “It does take longer to rebuild this channel, and we believe many of our initiatives, including improved product and enhanced catalog presentation, will be more beneficial beginning in the second half of the year.”

The Hingham, MA-based cataloger/retailer posted net income of $5.2 million, down from last year’s first-quarter income of $27.4 million.

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