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NEW YORK CITY-Ann Taylor Stores on Friday reported net income of $3.6 million for the second quarter that ended August 1, off about 88% from the $31.2 million net in the same quarter last year. In a release, the retailer says its quarterly results were better than expected and reflect a “solid” 52.4% gross margin and year-over-year cost savings of 8%, along with comparatively strong sales at its Loft stores.

Net sales for Q2 were $470.2 million, compared with $592.3 million in Q2 2008. Comparable store sales for the quarter declined 22.5% versus the prior year, with Ann Taylor locations seeing a 38% drop in comparables. For the first half of fiscal 2009, same-store sales declined 26.6%, with a 40.4% decline at Ann Taylor and a 19.8% decline at Loft.

“During the quarter, we continued to be very disciplined in managing our business, with a relentless focus on keeping our inventories clean, controlling expenses and maximizing gross margin dollars,” Kay Krill, president and CEO, says in the release. She adds, “We have strategically positioned our fall merchandise receipt plans conservatively, with an emphasis on preserving gross margin in a soft consumer spending environment that is expected to continue to affect our top line.”

For the remainder of fiscal ’09, Ann Taylor expects its same-store sales to improve for both brands compared to the first half of the year, and also anticipates an uptick in gross margins. The company expects to trim its total square footage 3.6% by year’s end, as it closes 53 locations and opens 14 new ones.

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