J.Jill Group shares drop

Shares of J. Jill Group, the women’s clothing retailer whose distribution center is in Tilton, continued to fall on Monday after dropping by almost a dollar Oct. 7, the day after the company announced that its third-quarter loss would be greter than expected.

J. Jill shares fell to $14.20 at the close on Monday, $1.04 cents off its Oct. 6 price. The fall came after analysts downgraded the company and lowered earning estimates.

Adrienne Tennant, analyst with Wedbush Morgan downgraded J.Jill Group from “Buy” to “Hold” due to “weak business, the lack of a visible catalyst for a turnaround and weakness in the company’s Missy brand,” according to reports by the Associated Press.

Tennant lowered third-quarter loss estimates to 14 cents per share while Piper Jaffray analyst Neely J.N. Tamminga set her estimate at a 12 cent-per-share loss. Both were in line with J.Jill’s expectation of a 12 to 14 cent per share loss on sales. All loss estimates are substantially deeper than earlier predictions of two-cents-per-share.

Third quarter sales for J.Jill Group are expected to reach $103 million, up from $94.9 million for the same time period last year.

“Increased promotional activity and off-price selling drove the comparable store sales increase during the quarter,” said Gordon R. Cooke, president and CEO of J.Jill Group. “Regardless of expected top-line growth our profit margin is expected to remain relatively flat.”

Cooke credits this to the fact that the company’s retail business, which is the least profitable, is growing while their more profitable direct sales business is declining. Cooke said the company will continue to focus on improving the profitablility of the retail end of J.Jill Group.

J.Jill Group specializes in clothing, accessories and footware for woman 35 and older. – TRACIE STONE

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