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CANTON, MA-Stronger sales helped men’s clothing retailer Casual Male Retail Group Inc. pared its losses by 63 percent during the first quarter of 2005, with losses declining to $1.9 million, or 5 cents per share, compared to $5.1 million, or 15 cents per share during the same period last year.

The Canton, MA-based chain, which operates 530 stores in the United States and Canada under the Casual Male Big & Tall and the Rochester Big & Tall brands, said sales increased 16% to $97.3 million during the three month period ending April 30, outpacing the company’s 13% increase in operating expenses. Casual Male’s $116.8 million in long term debt ate into those gains however. The company rang up $84.2 million in sales during the same period in 2004.

“Our operating results were a substantial improvement over last year,” said David Levin, president and chief executive officer. “This is our first quarter where the company’s efforts were entirely focused on its core big & tall businesses.”

Despite the large losses, sales of the company’s stock was up 16 cents to $6.84 per share at the close of business Thursday.

First quarter results for fiscal 2005 included the operating results of the firm’s Rochester Big & Tall stores, which were acquired in October 2004. In 2004, first quarter results included sales of $6.1 million and an operating loss of $300,000 from the Ecko Unlimited outlet stores, which the company sold in July.

Levin said the company, which has had six consecutive quarters of comp sales increases, is starting to see traffic in its stores stabilize and demand for its branded products increase. The firm’s George Foreman line continues to be strong, Levin said, adding that the company plans to introduce the Calvin Klein brand, in its stores in July to compliment the Nautica brand that was launched in March.

The world’s largest retailer of big and tall men’s apparel also plans to introduce the Tommy Bahama brand in its Rochester Big & Tall stores, Levin said. The company also announced that it has successfully integrated the Rochester division into its operations and will close Rochester’s fulfillment center in Atlanta and downsize its San Francisco operation in the coming months.

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