• Q1 loss narrows to $19.4m
  • Sales fell 8.4% to $155.7m
  • Gross margin improved 70 basis points to 32.7%

Women's wear retailer Coldwater Creek has reported a narrower first-quarter loss after improved margins offset a decline in sales.

Net loss was US$19.4m for the three months to 4 May, compared to a $23.8m loss in the same period last year.

Sales reached $155.7m, down 8.4% on $169.9m the prior year. 

Retail sales declined 10.2% to $117.8m against $131.2m last year, while comparable retail sales were down 10.5%. Direct segment sales edged down 1.8% to $38m, from $38.7m last year.

Gross margin, however, improved 70 basis points to 32.7% from 32% due to increased leverage of buying and occupancy expenses.

"Our first quarter results were impacted by unseasonable weather throughout the quarter; however, we were able to more than offset softer-than-expected sales through gross margin rate expansion and disciplined expense management, delivering results consistent with the higher end of our expectations," said president and CEO Jill Dean.

"The extensive work we have done to clearly define our brand strategy and target customer has influenced our merchandise direction and assortment architecture primarily in the back half of the year, which we believe will enable us to continue to generate improvements in our operating performance in fiscal 2013."

Looking forward, the company expects second quarter adjusted net loss per share to range from $0.55-$0.75 and comparable retail store sales to be flat to down low-single digits.