Christopher & Banks Hires President, Predicts Loss

The struggling retailer has hired a new president for a one-year term, and disappointing third-quarter results have led it to suspend its dividend.

Christopher & Banks Corporation on Wednesday said that it has appointed Joel Waller president; it also said that it expects to report an operating loss for the third quarter.

Waller will report to CEO Larry Barenbaum, and he will serve in the role for a one-year term; the company didn't say why Waller's term will last just 12 months.

According to Christopher & Banks, Waller has more than three decades of retail experience, which most recently included chief executive roles at Wet Seal, Inc., and Wilsons Leather. A Star Tribune report indicates that Wilsons Leather, which was based in Brooklyn Park, was sold to G-III Apparel Group, Ltd., in 2008.

“Based on Joel's extensive retail experience, coupled with his operational, product sourcing, and management background, we believe that he will be highly effective in assisting us in revitalizing the business and getting the company back on track to profitability,” Barenbaum said in a statement.

The announcement about Waller's appointment comes about two weeks after the Minneapolis-based women's apparel retailer announced a series of cost-cutting measures-which are also fueled by a need to return to profitability. Those plans include the consolidation of some stores and the closure of others-a move that the company said will result in about 800 to 1,000 layoffs.Two Minnesota locations will be affected: In Roseville, two stores will be combined into one dual-format Christopher & Banks and CJ Banks store; a store in Albert Lea, meanwhile, will be closed altogether.

Christopher & Banks on Wednesday also released preliminary financial results for its third quarter, which ended November 26. It expects revenue of $123.9 million, up from $120.9 million during the same period a year ago; the company said that it anticipates an operating loss during the quarter but didn't provide specifics-it will officially announce earnings details on December 22.

Barenbaum said in a statement that the company is “clearly disappointed” with the quarter's performance, adding that Christopher & Banks was more aggressive with promotions in an effort to drive sales during the quarter-which resulted in “flat” same-store sales.

“Based on our recent performance and the view that we should preserve cash to provide us greater financial flexibility, the board of directors has made the decision to suspend our dividend,” he added.

Christopher & Banks, one of Minnesota's 50 largest public companies, reported a net loss of more than $22 million for its most recently completed fiscal year, and a net loss of $11.1 million for the first six months of this fiscal year, which ended in late August.