Big Lots Narrows Loss

Big Lots said it narrowed its loss in the third quarter, as revenue grew modestly, and raised the lower end of its guidance for the year. The Ohio-based company buys a range of merchandise discounted as a result of liquidations, production overruns and packaging changes and sells it at significantly lower prices than traditional discount retailers. For the current year, Big Lots forecast earnings of $2.95 to $3 a share, compared with previous guidance of $2.90 to $3 a share. For the fourth quarter of fiscal 2015, Big Lots reiterated its adjusted earnings estimates in the range of $1.95 to $2 a share. Estimated comparable-store sales are expected to increase 1% to 2%. Chief Executive David Campisi pointed to positive comparable sales for a seventh consecutive quarter, with strength in ownable and winnable merchandising. He said inventories were lean and merchandising categories are set for the holiday season. In the most recent quarter, comparable sales at stores open at least 15 months rose 2.6%. Big Lots reported a loss of $1.5 million, or 3 cents a share, compared with $3.4 million, or 6 cents, a year earlier. Excluding a $1 million, or 2 cent a share, expense for the termination of a legacy pension plan, Big Lots posted a loss of a penny a share, compared with 6 cents in the quarter a year ago. Revenue edged up less than a percentage point to $1.12 billion, as same-store sales growth was offset in part by fewer open stores. The company had forecast a range from a loss of 4 cents a share to a profit of a penny a share, and analysts were looking for $1.12 billion in revenue. Gross margin rose to 39.4% from 38.9%, as losses from continuing operations shrunk. Shares, down about 11% in the last 12 months, were inactive premarket. Write to Anne Steele at