Pier 1 Posts Q3 Loss, Gloomy on Dec. Sales

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Home furnishings retailer Pier 1 Imports Inc. (PIR) on Thursday reported a quarterly loss and said it probably would miss its December sales forecast because of "unpredictable" sales trends and stiff competition.

Pier 1 shares fell nearly 9 percent.

The company, in the process of revamping its merchandise line with more modern styles in the hope of winning back customers, said it would not provide financial forecasts for the current quarter because of the sales uncertainty.

Pier 1 has struggled to compete with trendy offerings from discounters and specialty retailers and has been trying to bring in contemporary furniture instead of the wicker styles that had been its hallmark.

The company reported a loss of $7.2 million, or 8 cents per share, for the third quarter ended on November 26, compared with year-earlier earnings of $19.5 million, or 22 cents per share.

Analysts on average had been expecting a loss of 9 cents per share, according to Reuters Estimates.

Sales fell 2.4 percent to $476.2 million, while sales at stores open at least a year -- a key retail measure known as same-store sales -- dropped 6.5 percent.

Pier 1 said it increased marketing and store payroll spending during the quarter. It also distributed two fall catalogs in a bid to improve its brand image.

But the company's turnaround is taking time, and Pier 1 said its December same-store sales forecasts for low single-digit growth now do not look achievable because of "unpredictable sales trends since the Thanksgiving weekend and the heavy promotional environment."

Pier 1 now expects a same-store sales decline in the mid-single digit range unless the second half of the month is significantly better than current trends.

The retailer said it was looking forward to early spring, when more modern merchandise lines arrive.