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LITTLE ROCK, AR-Dillard’s Inc. is continuing on its path to profitability, reducing its quarterly loss to $2.7 million, or 3 cents per share, compared to net loss of $18.7 million, or 23 cents per share, for the same quarter 2004.

The department store chain’s sales increased 2% for the quarter to $1.72 billion compared to $1.69 billion for the same period last year. Comp-store sales also increased 2%, amid a gross margin increase of 80 basis points. The margin increase is attributed to lower levels of markdowns, according to a company statement.

According to Dillard’s, sales were strongest in the Eastern region and above expectations in the Western region. The Central region was not a strong performer during the quarter. From a merchandise perspective,accessories, lingerie, shoes and juniors’ apparel performed well, but children’s apparel, decorative home products and furniture weren’t strong performers.

Dillard’s bottom line also improved during the quarter, posting a $14 million decrease in advertising, selling, administrative and generalexpenses to $521 million and a $9.5 million decrease in interest and debt expense.

During the quarter, roughly 60 Dillard’s department stores were impacted by Hurricanes Katrina, Rita and Wilma. Four stores in the Gulf area will remain closed for the remainder of the year–two in New Orleans, one in Biloxi, MS and one in Port Arthur, TX.

Additionally, the department store chain continued to implement its plan to shutter under-performing locations, closing its Lexington Mall location in Lexington, KY. The Hickory Ridge Mall store in Memphis, TN and the Richardson Mall store in Richardson, TX will close during the fourth quarter 2005.

Dillard’s opened five stores during the quarter including two in Texas, bringing its total number of stores to 327 in 29 states.

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