UPDATE: Vera Bradley to close Indiana plant with 250 workers

March 11, 2015

Vera Bradley Inc. has announced plans to close its New Haven factory, idling about 250 workers.

The Fort Wayne-based maker of handbags, luggage and accessories said Tuesday it will close the factory May 9 unless business conditions require earlier action.

CEO Robert Wallstrom said in a news release that the company's U.S. production costs are nearly double of those overseas. He said the company will provide severance packages to the affected workers unable to transfer to other positions within the company.

The company will still employ about 2,300 U.S. workers, including 630 in the Fort Wayne area. Company co-founder Patricia Miller is a former Indiana secretary of commence under former Gov. Mitch Daniels.

On Wednesday, the company reported fiscal fourth quarter results and an outlook for the first quarter and fiscal 2016 that came in below analysts' estimates.

The handbag and accessories company's dropped more than 17 percent, to an all-time low of $14.81 per share.

Wallstrom said that its core customers are continuing to buy products, but that traffic and sales are "extremely challenging" because it hasn't attracted enough new customers.

The company is taking steps to try to get new shoppers to buy, including modernizing its product assortment.

Wallstrom said that the chain still believes it can hit $1 billion in sales in the future, but that it will take longer to achieve than the five years it initially projected.

Vera Bradley reported fiscal fourth-quarter earnings of $17.3 million, or 43 cents per share. That missed Wall Street's expectations. The average estimate of seven analysts surveyed by Zacks Investment Research was for earnings of 45 cents per share.

Revenue totaled $152.6 million, also falling short of Wall Street forecasts. Seven analysts surveyed by Zacks expected $160.6 million.

For fiscal 2015, Vera Bradley reported a profit of $38.4 million, or 95 cents per share. Revenue was reported as $509 million.


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