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FRESNO, CA-Department-store chain Gottschalks has hired UBS Investment bank to help the retailer explore strategic alternatives that include a sale of the company. Gottschalks’ board has set no timetable for a deal and does not expect to make an announcement on the matter until it has agreed to a specific transaction.

The chain, with 61 stores in six West Coast states, first announced its intention to explore alternatives early last month. At that time, at least one analyst speculated that potential buyers for the company could include one of many private-equity firms that have been acquiring retail and restaurant companies as of late.

During its most recent quarter, which ended Oct. 28, Gottschalks posted a net loss of $2.7 million, and $6.2 million year to date. Same-store sales inched up 0.5% year over year, but total sales slid 1.6%, to $148.8 million.

Executives say challenges in its home store department and increased operating losses caused the weak third-quarter results. Strong soft-line sales make the company well positioned for the holiday season, they contend.

Gottschalks opened a 124,000-sf store in Eugene, OR during the quarter, which replaced a former Macy’s. This quarter the chain also closed two stores, a 42,000-sf unit in Danville, CA and its last store in the Seattle Metro area, at Simon Property Group’s Northgate Mall.

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