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Ann Taylor increases expectations for Q4 of 2009
Feb '10
Ann Taylor Stores Corporation announced that, based upon stronger than anticipated fourth quarter sales and a gross margin rate that was slightly higher than previously anticipated, the Company expects to report bottom-line performance for the fiscal fourth quarter of 2009 that will exceed expectations and be substantially higher than the fourth quarter of 2008.

Based on preliminary fourth quarter results, the Company provided an update to its November 2009 outlook, as follows:

• Total Company net sales for the fiscal fourth quarter of 2009 are expected to approach $470 million, as compared to the Company's prior outlook for sales to decline slightly from the $462.4 million reported in the third quarter of 2009.
• Comparable store sales for the fourth quarter of 2009 are expected to be approximately flat. By division, comparable store sales at Ann Taylor are now expected to be down approximately 7%, ahead of the previous outlook for comparable store sales to be down in the low-to-mid teens. At LOFT, comparable store sales are expected to increase by approximately 2%, which reflects the upper end of the Company's previously anticipated range.
• Gross margin rate is expected to approach 52%, which is higher than the Company's previous outlook and significantly stronger than the 35.7% gross margin rate reported in the fourth quarter of 2008.
• Selling, general and administrative expenses are expected to be in line with the Company's earlier projection of approximately $245 million for the quarter, as compared to the $265 million of selling, general and administrative expenses reported in the fourth quarter of 2008.

Kay Krill, President and Chief Executive Officer, said, "Our fourth quarter performance exceeded our earlier expectations, and I am especially pleased that much of the upside was a result of improved product assortments at both brands. Overall, our top-line improvement and healthy gross margin performance also reflected the success of our planned promotional strategy and the benefit of our clean inventory position. Moreover, recent sales trends at Ann Taylor give us further confidence that the evolution of this brand is on the right track, while LOFT continues to successfully deliver on its offering of high quality, casual fashion at great value for our clients.

"Looking ahead, we are entering the Spring 2010 season with positive sales momentum at both brands driven by compelling merchandise and inventory that is positioned to support comparable store sales growth. We remain committed to maintaining our disciplined approach to inventory management with a focus on growing the top-line as well as delivering healthy gross margin performance throughout the year," Ms. Krill said.

Ann Taylor Stores Corporation

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