Ascena Retail Group Inc. (NASDAQ:ASNA) Q1 2020 Earnings Conference Call - Preliminary Transcript
Dec 09, 2019 • 04:30 pm ET
value. This process has been underway since the spring. And while I would like to provide a timeline. It is more important that we run a thorough and complete process before speaking publicly as we indicated on the last earnings call, we are considering options to optimize our balance sheet and liquidity. From a position of strength. Subsequent to the end of the first quarter has been opportunistically repurchased $80 million of term loan debt for $50 million in cash regarding the Dressbarn wind-down progress continued during the quarter.
As we've noted before, we have received tremendous support from our landlords and we remain on track to close all stores by calendar year-end. Thank you and I will now turn the call over to Gary.
Thanks Carrie for the first quarter operating income exceeded guidance resulting from our cost reduction efforts across the business. Comparable sales in gross margin results were in line with guidance. Importantly, we continue to carefully manage inventory. Which was down 5% compared to the end of the first quarter last year.
Inventory content was fresh and we're relevant heading into holiday while we are seeing wins in our business there is still much work to be done as we execute our strategic initiatives. To drive improved performance across our business our 3 key priorities remain driving sustainable growth improving operating margins and optimizing our capital structure.
First, with respect to delivering sustainable growth we are putting the customer at the center of everything that we did by creating a more nimble and flexible organization that enables us to 3 act to our customers' rapidly changing needs with better product more effective communication and an exceptional customer service across channels. Starting with product we are making progress in leveraging customer insights gained from our advanced data analytics to deliver the right product at the right time as we address for lifestyle needs and continue
as we provide a compelling assortment across our brands we have tightened our test and react approach more quickly respond to our preferences and shopping behaviors. We saw the biggest benefit of these insights in the performance of our Plus business this quarter. Our communication strategies are designed to grow our customer file by retaining existing customers and drawing new customers to our brand.
To accomplish this, we are enhancing customer engagement by leveraging our analytics capabilities to segment the customer file and deliver more relevant messages across all media channels. Our current and targeted customers we are also are efficiently utilizing digital channels to prospect of new customers in addition, our loyalty program plays a key role in advancing our personalization efforts as we've taken steps to deepen our understanding of our customer, the more effectively engage with her our goal is to deliver the right message to the right person at the right time.
To drive greater brand (inaudible) see engagement we've made the most progress in our Premium segment where we have seen segmentation drive incremental revenue and