Your speakers today are Gary Schoenfeld, Chief Executive Officer; and Michael Kaplan, Chief Financial Officer. [Operator Instructions]
Before I turn the call over to Gary, I'd like to note the statements and discussions during today's call will contain forward-looking information about our future financial performance and prospects. Our actual results could differ materially from those contained in our forward-looking statements. Risks and uncertainties that could cause our business and financial results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements are included in our Fiscal 2011 Form 10-K and in subsequent filings we made with the SEC, as well as in the earnings press release we issued today.
These documents can be found in the Investor Relations website -- section on our website at pacsun.com. All information discussed on the call is as of today, May 17, 2012. PacSun undertakes no duty to update this information to reflect future events or circumstances.
This call, the webcast and its replay are the property of Pacific Sunwear. It is not for rebroadcast or use by any other party without the prior written consent of PacSun. With that said, I'll now turn the call over to Gary.Gary H. Schoenfeld Thank you, Craig. Good afternoon, and thank you all for joining us today. I'm pleased to say that we experienced a significant improvement in our business since the time of our last conference call, which resulted in sales for the first quarter at the high end of our guidance and gross margins and non-GAAP EPS that exceeded the high end of our range. Sales from continuing operations for the first quarter were $174 million this year versus $172 million last year, and our first quarter operating loss was reduced by nearly $10 million compared to a year ago. Specific highlights for the quarter included: positive comp of 1% in both men's and women's; 160 basis point improvement in merchandise margins; lower occupancy costs and SG&A expenses, both at absolute dollars and as a percentage of sales; and lower inventory compared to a year ago.