Hancock Fabrics' sales rise, loss widens

By Dennis Seid/NEMS Daily Journal

BALDWYN – Craft-and-fabric retailer Hancock Fabrics enjoyed a sales increase during its fiscal first quarter. And for the first time in nine years, the company reeled off seven consecutive months of comparable sales increases.
Still, the Baldwyn-based company in the first quarter saw its loss grow compared to a year earlier.
On Friday, Hancock Fabrics said first-quarter sales rose to $63.9 million, up 3.5 percent from the $62 million posted a year earlier.
It’s a good sign for Hancock, which said last year’s sales had fallen 1.3 percent from the first quarter of 2010.
However, Hancock’s loss for the first quarter ending April 28 also grew, from $2.2 million, or 11 cents a share, to $2.4 million, or 12 cents a share.
The company also said its operating loss increased from $1 million to $1.2 million.
Still, Hancock President and CEO Steve Morgan was upbeat about the news.
“Sales continue to ramp up as we move into June, with seven months of positive comparables in a row. This is the first time that Hancock has achieved a continuous sales increase for that period of time since 2003,” he said in a statement.
In April, Morgan noted the company had logged its best fourth-quarter comparable sales since 2002.
For the first quarter of this year, Morgan said expenses were cut by more than $900,000 compared to a year earlier. Gross margin for the period was more than $905,000 higher than in 2011 despite more promotional activity.
“Inventories are extremely clean and initiatives put into place over the past eight months continue to contribute to these positive comparables,” he said. “We feel optimistic about the remainder of the year.”
Hancock said it ended the first quarter with 263 stores, with no closings or new openings. It did relocate two stores.
In the most recent fiscal year that ended Jan. 28, Hancock reported a net loss of $11.3 million on sales of $272 million. Online sales contributed $4.8 million, down 7.9 percent from the previous year.
The company posted a $10.5 million loss in FY2010 and a $12.4 million loss in FY2008. But in FY2009, Hancock went into the black and recorded earnings of $1.8 million.

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