And now I’d like to turn the call over to Dennis.
Thank you. And thank you for joining us today to review our second quarter results and our plans for the second half of 2012. After my opening remarks Jill will review our merchandised performance during the quarter and Jim will then discuss our second quarter financial results in more detail and provide guidance for the third quarter. After our prepared remarks we will turn the call over to the operator to take your questions.
Our second quarter performance was slightly ahead of the expectations we provided in May with encouraging results across the financial and operational metrics demonstrating that we are executing the appropriate strategies to improve our financial performance and generate consistent sales and earnings growth in the future.
I’d now like to draw your attention to some key data points. Our tight inventory controls and significantly lower markdown sales drove over 465 point basis improvements in merchandised margin. We also continued to tightly manage expenses resulting in a $4 million year-over-year reduction in SG&A expense in the quarter. These improvements resulted in a $10 million reduction in our net loss relative to a year ago.
Our product strategies drove improvements in several key top metrics during the quarter including our average unit retail which increased 2.5% and our conversion rate [comp] which was up 4%. As expected, traffic remained challenging during the quarter due primarily to a significant reduction in planned promotional activity in the month of June.
An important component of our turnaround strategy involves rationalizing our store base by either closing underperforming stores or achieving an optimal store size by downsizing existing venues. To-date we have closed 24 stores and are on-track to meet our plans to close up to a total of 45 by the end of fiscal 2013. These closures represent the majority of our underperforming stores.