Hardwood flooring retailer Lumber Liquidators shares rose 3% in premarket trade Thursday, after the company reported better-than-expected sales for the first quarter. The company said net sales rose 5.6% to $260 million in the quarter, ahead of the FactSet consensus of $258 million, while same-store sales fell 1.8%. However, March sales slumped 12.8% to $89.4 million, as the company continued to be hurt by allegations that China-sourced laminate sold at stores across the U.S. contains higher-than-accepted levels of a known carcinogen. The allegations were made in a damning "60 Minutes" report that aired in early March. Same-store sales fell 17.8% in the month, as average sales fell 6.5% and the number of customers invoiced fell 11.3%. Open orders stood at $46.4 million at end March, down 13.% from the year earlier. Gross margin is expected to range from 35.5% to 36.5% for the quarter, down from 41.1% a year ago. "We believe the decline in gross margin is primarily due to adverse net shifts in sales mix, lower retail prices across product categories particularly in March, and certain planned changes in the marketing of the Company's value proposition," the company said in a statement. Lumber Liquidators is offering customers an air quality testing program at no cost, and has supplied 10,000 of the kits so far. Shares are down 48% in the year so far, while the S&P 500 has gained 0.1%.
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