Liz Claiborne loss deeper than expected

NEW YORK Wed May 13, 2009 8:05am EDT

A Liz Claiborne hang tag is shown on a woman's blouse in Burbank, California May 13, 2008. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

A Liz Claiborne hang tag is shown on a woman's blouse in Burbank, California May 13, 2008.

Credit: Reuters/Fred Prouser

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NEW YORK (Reuters) - Fashion company Liz Claiborne Inc LIZ.N reported a quarterly loss deeper than Wall Street expected as retail sales remained weak in the recession, and its shares fell nearly 12 percent in light premarket trading.

The owner of the Juicy Couture, Kate Spade, Lucky Brand and Mexx labels on Wednesday posted a net loss of $91.4 million, or 97 cents per share, for the first quarter that ended April 4, compared with a net loss of $31.02 million, or 33 cents per share, a year earlier.

Excluding one-time items, the loss was 37 cents a share, much worse than analysts' average forecast for a loss of 22 cents, according to Reuters Estimates.

Sales fell nearly 29 percent to $779.7 million.

Liz shares were down 68 cents at $5.09 before the bell.

To combat the recession, Liz Claiborne is cutting jobs, scaling back expansion and offering more lower-priced items.

It also brought in celebrity designer Isaac Mizrahi to breathe new life into its namesake Liz Claiborne sportswear line. The much-anticipated relaunch, which analysts have said could improve its fortunes, debuted at department stores this spring.

Earlier this year the company said it would not provide a 2009 earnings outlook due to the economic uncertainty, but had outlined sales trends for its brands.

Liz Claiborne said it still expects same-store sales for its Juicy Couture, Lucky Brand and Kate Spade brands to decline 15 percent to 25 percent through the third quarter.

It now expects same-store sales at its Mexx brand to drop in the high single digit range on that basis.

Overall same-store sales results would flatten in the fourth quarter as comparisons ease, the company said.

Liz Claiborne forecast an operating loss on an adjusted basis for the second quarter, saying sales and loss would look similar to its first quarter's results.

By the third quarter, results would improve thanks to cost cutting measures and lower inventory, the company said.

For its fourth quarter, it forecast an operating profit on an adjusted basis.

(Reporting by Aarthi Sivaraman; editing by John Wallace, Dave Zimmerman)

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