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The gross margin was $196.9 million, or 36.1 per cent of net sales, compared to $209.1 million, or 36.1 per cent of net sales, in last year's second quarter. Gross margin rate as a percent of net sales was primarily driven by a 100 basis point improvement in maintained margin, offset by costs related to continued expansion of our omni-channel fulfillment programs and deleverage of store occupancy costs.
At the end of the second quarter, cash and marketable securities totaled $239.4 million compared to $186.2 million at the end of last year's second quarter. This $53.2 million increase primarily reflects cash generated from operating activities, partially offset by cash utilised for capital expenditures, shareholder dividends and share repurchases.
The selling, general and administrative ("SG&A") expenses were $174.1 million, or 31.9 per cent of net sales, compared to $173.6 million, or 30.0 per cent of net sales, for last year's second quarter. This increase primarily reflects investments in marketing and technology as well as deleverage of store operating expenses.
For full-year fiscal 2018, the company continues to anticipate a mid-single digit decline in net sales and a low-to-mid single digit decline in consolidated comparable sales. The company expects gross margin rate expansion of approximately 50 basis points over fiscal 2017, which is within the company's previously provided range of an expansion of 50 to 70 basis points. The SG&A expenses will be approximately flat compared to fiscal 2017.
"Second quarter results were in-line with our expectations, reflecting momentum on our top-line initiatives," said Shelley Broader, CEO and president of the company. "New merchandise assortments are resonating with customers, and innovative advancements to our robust omni-channel platform are driving increased customer awareness and reactivation. We remain confident in the opportunities across our brands for profitable growth and value creation."
For the third quarter fiscal 2018, both net sales and comparable sales are expected to decline low-single digits compared to third quarter fiscal 2017. The gross margin rate as a percent of net sales is likely to increase approximately 50 basis points compared to third quarter fiscal 2017. The company also anticipates SG&A expenses to increase in the range of $8 million to $10 million compared to third quarter fiscal 2017 due to continued investment in technology and marketing. (RR)
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