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Coldwater Takes Another Plunge

SAN FRANCISCO -- Coldwater Creek (CWTR) lowered its earnings estimate for the fourth quarter, joining the growing list of retailers unable to overcome merchandising troubles plaguing the women's apparel sector.

Shares were taking a nose dive in after-hours trading, falling 75 cents, or 14.6%, to $4.40.

Coldwater Creek now expects a loss in the range of 16 cents to 20 cents a share, compared with its prior forecast for break-even results. Analysts had expected a fourth-quarter loss of 1 cent a share, according to Thomson Financial.

Coldwater anticipates that same-store sales, or sales at stores open at least a year, will decrease by a mid-to-high-teen percentage. The company said its same-store sales traffic has remained down in the high-single-digit percentage range through the fourth quarter.

Coldwater Creek has been suffering for more than a year alongside women's apparel chains like Talbots (TLB), Chico's (CHS) and Ann Taylor (ANN), all of which have acknowledged merchandising missteps that have alienated customers. Those issues have collided with a general consumer slowdown amid the housing slump and credit malaise.

Mark Montagna, an analyst for C.L. King and Associates, earlier Monday advised that investors stay on the sidelines with Coldwater Creek until spring assortments come out in late March to early April and it is more clear where the company is headed.

"The company has suffered from the overall demise of the missy customer sector and high promotions at department stores," Montagna wrote in a research note. "However, it also appears to be suffering from an expense structure that needs to be pared back. Its own merchandise may have lost appeal with the customer base."

Coldwater President and CEO Daniel Griesemer said the company is "clearly disappointed" with the financial performance, but is committed to improving results.

"We believe that continued changes to our product and operations, including refining our assortment, lowering our marketing expenditures, right-sizing our cost structure and resources, bringing inventories in line with demand, reducing our promotions and discounting and moderating our future retail expansion plans will put us on a path of sustainable growth for the brand," Griesemer said in a statement.

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