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Before we get started, I will remind everyone that forward-looking statements are inherently subject to risks and uncertainties. Our actual results could differ materially from those currently anticipated due to a number of factors, including those set forth in the Risk Factor section in our Annual Report on Form 10-K and we undertake no obligation to update or revise any forward-looking statements.Now, I would like to turn the call over to Maxine Clark. Maxine? Maxine Clark Thank you, Allison, and good morning, everyone. Thank you for joining us to discuss our 2012 first quarter results. On our call today, I will review our performance for the quarter and highlight the progress we’ve made on the priorities that we’ve set at the start of the year. Then, I’ll turn the call over to Tina Klocke, our Chief Operations and Financial Bear to review our financial results in more detail. After my concluding comments, we’ll open the call to answer the questions you have for us today. We’re off to a solid start in 2012 returning to growth in our comparable store sales and increasing our e-commerce and international franchise revenues in the quarter. We’ve improved our gross margin and continued to realize benefits from our expense savings initiatives. While we had a loss of $0.06 per share, this is a considerable improvement over the loss that we reported in the first quarter last year of $0.12 per share. We believe this reflects real progress towards achieving our number one objective to increase shareholder value by profitably growing sales and gives us confidence that our business strategies will continue to move us forward. Additional details on the quarter’s performance include getting our comp store sales back on the growth track with a 1.2% increase in consolidated comparable store sales, led by a 3.6% increase in North America, where we had positive comps in each month of the quarter. While the quarter benefited from an early Easter holiday than 2011, our performance post-Easter gives us confidence that we are on track as we move forward. We now have had positive comp sales in three of our last four quarters.
On the e-commerce side, we’ve increased our sales for seven straight quarters including a 9.1% increase this quarter, excluding the impact of foreign exchange. Both North America and the U.K. delivered significant increases. We continue to be in a strong cash position ending the first quarter with $33.5 million in cash and no borrowings on our credit facility.Now, let me go into a bit more detail on our product and brand building plans, a key platform of the growth strategies that we detailed in our last call. Looking back at the first quarter, in January, we drove business by maximizing traffic and redemptions from our gift card program. We keyed into strong gifting product and messaging to deliver Valentine’s Day in February. And in March, we leveraged the Easter season with our Watercolor Bunny & Chick and offered an Easter egg decorating kit as a gift with purchase. We also had a strong response to our first ever tie-in with the Girl Scouts, introducing a special bear in conjunction with their 100th anniversary. This partnership is a great fit with our core demographic tween guests. On the marketing front, we are attracting new guest to our stores with a renewed focus on brand advertising and an emphasis on special occasions as a reason to visit a Build-A-Bear Workshop store. We want to let kids know about our exciting new products as well as our fun store experience and make it easy for moms to say yes. As I mentioned on our last call, we had three notable events this quarter. Our promotion with McDonald’s rebalancing our advertising to speak to both product and the brand experience and a refresh of our Stuff Fur Stuff loyalty program. Read the rest of this transcript for free on seekingalpha.com