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Talbots re-confirms full year outlook

May '08
The Talbots Inc announced total Company sales for the thirteen weeks ended May 3, 2008 of $542 million, versus last year's reported sales of $574 million. By brand, retail sales were $436 million for Talbots compared to $457 million last year and $106 million for J. Jill compared to $117 million last year.

Total Company comparable store sales declined 9.8% for the thirteen-week period. By brand, comparable store sales for Talbots decreased 7.4%. For the J. Jill brand, comparable store sales decreased 20.2% in the period.

Consolidated direct marketing sales, including catalog and Internet, for the thirteen-week period increased 2% to $108 million, compared to $106 million a year ago.

Trudy F. Sullivan, President and Chief Executive Officer of The Talbots, Inc. commented, "Although our total Company sales were softer than we had anticipated, we are pleased by our ability to achieve significantly improved merchandise gross margin, as it reflects progress in the implementation of one of our important strategic initiatives.

Specifically, strong merchandise gross margin was driven by leaner total Company inventory, down approximately 7% to last year, and better inventory management, which enabled the selling of our markdown merchandise at higher average unit retail values versus prior years.

Key to the success of these efforts was the revamped Talbots brand marketing strategy to increase the frequency of customer contact and the transition to a regular monthly markdown cadence initiated last November. This benefited all Talbots brand channels in the first quarter and resulted in a significant improvement in total Company merchandise gross margin of approximately 250 basis points."

"Looking at our Talbots brand, after a solid February and a very difficult March, which was felt across the industry, we experienced a significant improvement in April sales. We had a good customer response to our recent spring deliveries and a very successful response to our annual April best customer event, which led to a positive mid-single digit April comp and a corresponding increase in the brand's direct marketing sales."

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