Body Central Corp. was already reeling when Brian Woolf was brought in as the new chief executive officer in February 2013 and while he’s taking steps to turn the business around, the results have continued to look bleak over the past year.
“This past year has been a tough year for the company and tough for me personally. I’m only used to winning,” Woolf told shareholders at Body Central’s annual meeting Wednesday at the Downtown River Club.
The Jacksonville-based fashion retailer reported an adjusted net loss of $20.8 million, or $1.27 a share in 2013. Last week, Body Central reported a loss of $9.3 million, or 56 cents per share, in the first quarter this year as sales continued to plummet.
“Our level of expectation is that things will get better if we can, obviously, perform to the plan,” Woolf said.
Woolf outlined the steps the company is taking to turn things around, including bringing in a new merchandising team, closing underperforming stores and cutting expenses.
In one cost-cutting move, according to a Securities and Exchange Commission filing last week, both Woolf and Chief Financial Officer Thomas Stoltz took a 20 percent cut in their salaries, although they could regain that pay if certain financial conditions are met.
Woolf said there is at least one positive sign in Body Central’s financials.
“What we do have is improved merchandise margins,” he said.
Woolf said the company will no longer use “heavy promotional activity” that can increase sales but at a lower profit margin.
One person, who would not give his name and did not say if he is a shareholder, spoke up to criticize management during the meeting, asking “are we still in that spiral?”
Woolf said he is hopeful that more signs of a turn in the business will be evident starting in June.
In an interview after the meeting, Woolf said one impediment to Body Central’s turnaround plan is a tough environment in its target market, which is teenagers and young women.
“The overall business climate in the teen sector is exceptionally difficult right now,” with teenagers experiencing high unemployment, he said.
Woolf said retailers have been seeing less mall traffic overall.
“Is that going to continue? We hope not, but it might,” he said.
Body Central had been planning to relocate from its current 179,000-square-foot headquarters at 6225 Powers Ave. on the Southside to a 400,000-square-foot office and distribution facility at One Imeson Center on the Northside this year. However, the company put that move on hold in March because of its cash flow problems.
“Our plan is to meet our financial goals and move in,” Woolf said.
Body Central announced last month it had retained investment banking firm Houlihan Lokey Capital Inc. to explore various options, which could include a capital injection or a buyout.
“They are aggressively pursuing all avenues and getting a lot done,” Woolf said, but he could not give further details.