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Ascena Blames Customer Price Sensitivity for Q2 Sales Slide

Now that consumers know they can perpetually buy on promotion, many won’t pay up for full price product and brands are feeling the pinch.

In its second quarter report released Wednesday, Ascena Retail Group, parent company of Ann Taylor, Loft and Lane Bryant, reported sales dipped 4 percent to $1.748 billion for the period ended Jan. 28.

“While we remain generally pleased with selling performance during peaks, our base business remained soft due to ongoing store traffic headwinds and overall customer price sensitivity, which have become persistent issues impacting our larger sector,” Ascena Retail Group president and CEO David Jaffe said. “While our second quarter comp sales were in line with our guidance, we were forced to be much more promotional than planned to achieve this level of performance.”

Sales were down the most at Ann Taylor, falling 9 percent. Loft fared slightly better with sales sliding 2 percent and sales at Lane Bryant fell 5 percent.

The company’s operating loss totaled $45 million for the quarter compared to $17 million in the prior year period. The company attributed the increased loss to the decline in gross margin dollars in its value fashion (Maurices and Dressbarn) and kids fashion (Justice) segments. Net losses totaled $35 million or 18 cents per diluted share.

“As I reflect on our strategic position, we continue to see the disruptive trend toward ecommerce transactions, and the growing influence of online engagement on traditional brick and mortar activity across our sector,” Jaffe said. “We’ve invested heavily in our omnichannel platform over a multi-year period, and we continue to aggressively evolve our organization to embrace and serve customers in this new retailing paradigm.”

Ascena operates 4,878 store locations, including 328 Ann Taylor stores, 678 Loft stores and 1,012 Maurices locations.