As pandemic stay-at-home orders loosened, Christopher & Banks was able to open stores and continue to gain more online customers. Still, store traffic has been lighter than before the coronavirus hit the U.S.
Company leaders, though, said Friday the uncertainty of the industry and the closure of some competitors could ultimately play in the chain’s favor.
The Plymouth-based women’s apparel chain saw sales fall nearly 30% in May, June and July compared with the same period a year ago. The retailer lost $15.1 million during the quarter ended Aug. 1.
But Christopher & Banks still performed better than it did during the outset of the pandemic, when sales were down more than 50%.
“Leveraging the strong foundation that we built and the strategic plan we advanced over the course of the last two years, we were able to move quickly to adapt to the changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Keri Jones, the retailer’s chief executive, in an earnings call Friday.
During the quarter, the company worked on managing inventory, minimizing expenses and growing its cash reserves.
A bright spot was the nearly 71% growth in the company’s e-commerce sales as some customers shopped online for the first time.
The company has made several recent digital-sales improvements, including offering store pickup, creating an online outfitting tool and launching Facebook pages for individual stores.
While online business was up, Jones acknowledged that brick-and-mortar traffic remained down.
Like many apparel sellers, Christopher & Banks has had to adjust to changing consumer needs and logistical challenges as the pandemic has unfolded throughout the year.
Stay-at-home orders forced the company to close its stores in March.
Net sales dipped to $58.5 million in the second quarter as the company continued to reel from temporary store closures with the company seeing selling days cut by more than one-third compared with the same period last year.
The company is working with its property landlords on rent concessions and reductions on its store leases.
Christopher & Banks’ available cash and cash equivalents, which fell to just $200,000 for the first quarter, improved to $2.8 million in the second quarter, with $4.6 million in short-term borrowing and $5.9 million of credit available.
The company has long-term debt of $15 million, which includes a $10 million Paycheck Protection Program loan that the company believes will be forgiven.
Despite the challenges the pandemic has presented, Jones said there were also opportunities to attract new customers, especially since some competitors were going out of business.
About 38% of Christopher & Banks stores are situated in shopping centers where one or more competitors have closed or plan to close their stores.
“The market disruption taking place presents an ideal opportunity to attract new customers to the Christopher & Banks brand,” Jones said.
During the quarter, customers showed strong interest in casual tops and accessories, which Jones said the company thinks will continue for the fall as many women continue to work from home.
Like many local companies, Christopher & Banks has decided to forgo its financial forecast for the remainder of the fiscal year because of the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and its impact on the retail industry.
Nicole Norfleet • 612-673-4495