Direct marketing sales at women’s apparel retailer Talbots rose 26.7% in the first quarter to $63.1 million, which includes catalogs and Internet, compared with the same period last year. A total of $6.7 million of direct marketing sales were due to in-store phone orders. Another reason for this surge was the timing of the May catalog, which was released a week earlier this year as opposed to last year.
Talbots showed a significant turnaround in overall performance compared with the first quarter of 2009. Net sales rose 4.7% to $320.7 million. The company’s operating income was $2.9 million, an increase of $25.1 million compared to the previous year’s operating loss of $22.2 million.
Store sales inched 0.5% to $257.6 million.
Talbots’ improvements in the quality of merchandise, coupled with customers’ willingness to buy at full price, were cited by the merchant as reasons for its strong performance.
Roxanne Meyer, an analyst at UBS, also attributed Talbots’ phoenix-like rise to marketing, an element sacrificed by many financially-pinched retailers in the early days of the recession.
“The big thing they’ve done this year is invest in marketing to support sales growth,” she noted. “It’s been a catalyst that has been absent for the last one to two years. Talbots hasn’t been in a position to spend money on marketing until now.”