AnnTaylor states great loss

AnnTaylor Stores Corp., the clothing retailer geared toward women 25 to 55, reported a fourth-quarter loss on costs to close stores and cut jobs.

Ann Taylor is an American group of specialty apparel retail chain stores for women, headquartered in New York City. The stores offer classic styled suits, separates, dresses, shoes and accessories. The brand is marketed under three divisions, Ann Taylor, Ann Taylor LOFT, and Ann Taylor Factory.

The net loss was $6.67 million, or 11 cents a share, AnnTaylor said today. Excluding the restructuring expenses, it said profit was 19 cents, which trails the average analyst projection by 1 cent. The retailer gave full-year and first- quarter profit forecasts below analysts' estimates.

In January, the retailer said 13 percent of head-office positions would be cut and 117 stores closed. The moves cost $18.2 million after taxes in the quarter. Sales fell 1.6 percent as AnnTaylor struggled to lure shoppers who limited purchases because of higher food and fuel prices and more U.S. job losses.

“AnnTaylor is in the most competitive sector of retail,'' David Abella, who helps manage $2.5 billion at Rochdale Investment Management LLC in New York, said yesterday. It “also happens to be the weakest.'' Abella sold his AnnTaylor shares in the quarter.

Sales in the three months ended Feb. 2 declined to $600.8 million AnnTaylor said in a statement. A year earlier, the retailer posted profit of $21.5 million, or 31 cents a share.

AnnTaylor forecast profit of 35 cents to 40 cents a share in the first quarter and at most $1.90 for the year through February 2009. Analysts predicted profit of 42 cents in the quarter and $1.97 for the 12-month period.

AnnTaylor, which runs more than 900 stores, fell 29 cents to $23.90 yesterday in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. Before today, the shares have dropped 6.5 percent this year after losing 22 percent in 2007, the second straight annual decline.