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Apparel retailer Bebe warns on results as sales slide

People walk past the Bebe store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California, May 21, 2013. REUTERS/Fred Prouser
People walk past the Bebe store on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, California, May 21, 2013. REUTERS/Fred Prouser

(Reuters) - Women's apparel retailer Bebe Stores Inc warned of a bigger-than-expected quarterly loss as extremely cold weather in parts of the United States cut sales.

Shares of the company fell 9.6 percent to $5.82 in premarket trading.

"Our preliminary third-quarter results were heavily impacted by the winter storms, unseasonably cold weather, and the greater than expected impact of the Easter shift," Chief Executive Steve Birkhold said in a statement.

Birkhold said his company had switched to spring clothes early and had less winterwear to sell to customers during the unusually cold quarter.

Bebe said it expected a net loss of 29-32 cents per share for the third quarter ended April 5. Analysts on average were expecting a loss of 15 cents per share, according to Thomson Reuters I/B/E/S.

Sales declined 17.2 percent to about $93 million, below the $108.0 million analysts were expecting. Comparable store sales fell 5.7 percent.

U.S. retailers have been struggling due to sharp declines in mall traffic because of the unusually cold and snowy weather. Many have resorted to offering heavy discounts to attract shoppers, at the expense of gross margins.

Bebe said its merchandise margins for the third quarter were below previous expectations due to the increased promotions. The company said it expected its gross margin to be down from a year earlier.

Easter was three weeks later this year so fell outside the company's third quarter.

Bebe will report third-quarter results on May 8.

(Reporting by Maria Ajit Thomas in Bangalore; Editing by Maju Samuel and Rodney Joyce)

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