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The company's gross margin was $237.4 million, or 40.7 per cent of net sales for the reported quarter, compared to $262.3 million, or 40.8 per cent of net sales, in last year's first quarter. This 10 basis point decrease primarily reflects sales deleverage of store occupancy expenses, substantially offset by an improvement in merchandise margin. The selling, general and administrative expenses (SG&A) were $182.5 million, or 31.3 per cent of net sales for the first quarter of 2017, compared to $208.1 million, or 32.4 per cent of net sales, for the same period of previous year. This $25.6 million decrease primarily reflects savings in store related expenses, lower marketing spend and the benefit of other previously announced cost reduction initiatives.
"In this challenging retail environment, we remain steadfast in executing against our strategic plan to increase profitable sales and long-term earnings. Our flexible and profitable operating model allowed us to drive improvement in our operating income rate and earnings per share compared to last year even though our comparable sales in the quarter were below our expectations," Shelley Broader, CEO and president, said.
For fiscal 2017, the company anticipates a mid single-digit percentage decline in comparable sales. The company expects gross margin as a percent of net sales to be flat to up to a 30 basis point increase for the year, with approximately flat SG&A leverage. (RR)
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