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The company's gross margin rate decreased 320 basis points to 34.5 per cent, as compared to last year’s first quarter, primarily due to promotions to move through non-go-forward product and addressing slow sellers on a more frequent basis, as well as deleverage of occupancy. Further, its selling, general & administrative expenses (SG&A) also decreased by $4.5 million, driven by lower store operating expenses, lower net employee compensation expenses, and lower professional fees.
"While our first quarter results did not meet our expectations, we are pleased with our strong e-commerce growth, as well as the traction we have gained across a number of initiatives that we expect will yield improved financial performance in the back half of the year. We also made meaningful progress on our cost savings initiative which contributed to a $4.5 million reduction in SG&A expenses during the quarter. Our first quarter sales were pressured by industry trends as well as by a shortage of spring and fashion inventory as a result of the decision made last fall to cut back on receipts. However, we have a merchandise strategy in place to provide a more consistent flow of newness and infuse additional fashion into the product assortment. We are beginning to see improved sales trends with the receipt of new fashion inventory during the second quarter and expect continued improvement into the third quarter as our September assortment will fully reflect this go forward strategy. Overall, we believe that the steps we are taking will position Christopher and Banks for consistent and profitable growth over the long-term," said Joel Waller, interim president and chief executive officer. (RR)
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