Improvements at The Walking Company division were insufficient to prevent a larger loss at Big Dog Holdings during its first quarter.

During the three months ended 31 March, the Santa Barbara, California-based marketer of casual and active apparel and accessories posted a net loss of US$4.1m, or $0.44 a diluted share, up from a loss of $3.2m, or $0.35, in last year's first quarter.

Net sales moved ahead 14.4% to $44.2m from $38.7m in the prior-year period.

Comparable-store sales increased 7% in the quarter, consisting of a 12.6% increase at The Walking Company (TWC) and a 5% decline at Big Dogs. Gross margins grew to 52.7% of sales from 52.0% in last year's quarter.

Andrew Feshbach, chief executive officer, blamed the larger loss on an increase in depreciation, one-time expenses relating to the move of a distribution centre and "the decline in our Big Dogs business.

"Our outlook for the second quarter is optimistic as our TWC business continues to perform strongly. We also believe our Big Dog business is stabilising and the start-up of our distribution centre is complete, which will all contribute to a successful second quarter."

The company finished the quarter with a total of 295 stores - 145 for Big Dogs and 150 The Walking Company units - versus 304 as of a year ago.
By Arnold J Karr.