The gloomy mood among consumers in key markets pushed fashion and lifestyle group F J Benjamin into the red in the first quarter, it reported yesterday.
It made a net loss of $5.5 million for the three months to Sept 30, reversing the $1.1 million net profit in the same period last year.
It is the third consecutive quarter of red ink for the firm, which racked up a net loss of $7.0 million in the third quarter last year and a $12.4 million deficit in the fourth.
AT A GLANCE
NET LOSS: $5.5 million
REVENUE: $63.7 million (-15.5%)
First-quarter revenue declined 15.5 per cent to $63.7 million on the back of lacklustre sales in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong.
The firm said that "the challenging retail sector was compounded by a combination of factors, including lower tourist arrivals, exchange rate volatility and the disruptive haze situation in the region".
Gross margins declined 4.6 percentage points from last year to 39.2 per cent.
Gross margins generated from retail sales continued to be healthy and on a par with last year, F J Benjamin said.
The decline was attributable to higher discounts given on the timepiece wholesale business and a "less favourable mix of retail and wholesale sales".
Its fashion brands sold in Singapore include Banana Republic, Guess and Gap, as well as various watch brands such as Bell & Ross and GC Watches.
The firm's ongoing programme to enhance productivity helped reduce operating expenses by 31 per cent in the first quarter.
Loss per share was 0.96 cents, reversing earnings per share of 0.19 cents last year, while net asset value per share was 13.66 cents as at Sept 30, compared with 14.94 cents as at June 30.
Chief executive Nash Benjamin said he was "encouraged" to see that efforts to improve productivity are starting to flow through to the firm's operations.
"With the uncertain global economic outlook, we expect consumer sentiment to remain muted in the mid-term," he added.
"However, we are in a better position to engage the market with a robust cost structure and improved operational efficiencies through the ongoing rationalisation exercise."
The results were announced after the market closed.
F J Benjamin shares last traded at 8.6 cents on Monday.