Outdoor clothing retailer Eddie Bauer Holdings Inc has halved its first quarter loss on lower costs and a higher tax benefit, and said it is making good progress on its turnaround.
The Seattle based company said net loss dropped 56.9% to $19.3m or $0.63 per share, from $44.8m, or $1.47 per share, in the first quarter of 2007.

The results included non-operational income of $3.9m and an impairment charge of $3.9m to write-off an equity investment in its joint venture in Germany.

Total revenues were almost flat at $213.2m, compared to $214.0m in last year's quarter, with retail and outlet store sales down 1.4% to $134.5m.

The direct channel, which includes catalogues and website sales, saw a sales increase of 0.3% from the prior year quarter to $63.7m.

Total comparable stores sales (retail and outlet stores combined) rose 0.5% on top of a 9.5% gain in last year's first quarter.

Comparable retail stores sales increased by 2.9% on top of a 16.4% gain in last year's quarter, while comparable outlet store sales fell by 3.1%.

Comparable sales from the direct channel increased 0.3% in the quarter on top of a 16.3% increase during the same period last year.

Gross margin was down to 27.6% from 29.3% for the year-ago period, due to markdowns on higher levels of clearance inventory.

The company cut its operating loss by 35.2% or $13.8m to $25.4m, driven by a $16.7m decrease in selling, general and administrative (SG&A) expenses.

"We made good progress on our turnaround agenda this quarter, despite some significant challenges," said Neil Fiske, president and chief executive officer.

"We made important strides in reducing our cost structure, working down inventory levels, better focusing our stores and catalogues, and repositioning our brand.

"Overall, we are a stronger brand and company this year as we head into the second quarter."

The retailer, which operates 365 stores, in January said it was axing 123 jobs or 16% of its workforce as part of a wide-ranging savings programme.