BlueLinx more than halved its net loss from the same period a year ago to improve to $6.2 million, the company reported today. Net sales for the period ended Oct. 1 also rose by almost 2% to reach $472.9 million, which the company said was due to favorable year-over-year product pricing and flat overall unit volume.

The Atlanta-based distributor saw gross profit jump 17% to hit $58.3 million during the quarter. Total operating expenses remained flat at $57.1 million, while operating income moved into the black at $1.2 million, compared with a $7.3 million loss during the same period last year. Gross margins increased to 12.3% from 10.7% a year ago as a result of the company's initiatives to increase margins across all product categories.

The company revealed an adjusted net loss of $5.1 million, which includes a $6.1 million pretax loss and $1.1 million in severance related costs. The adjusted net loss is half the size of the loss sustained during 2010's third quarter.

"A combination of solid execution and our focus on value-added product strategies, coupled with a slight pick-up in demand late in the quarter, helped drive improved third-quarter results," said president and CEO George Judd.

The company's specialty segment saw sales rise 12% to $297.1 million, while structural segment sales fell 12% to $187.4 million. Judd said the company is focusing on its specialty segment in its efforts to find opportunities for growth. The specialty segment saw unit volume grow 11.4% during the third quarter, while structural unit volume declined 14%.

Net sales in the company's "other" segment remained in the red at negative $11.6 million, a slight improvement from the negative $13.5 million in sales posted a year ago. The other segment's results include competitive discounts, cash discounts, service revenue, Canadian conversion, and sales accruals.

Unit sales within the structural products division moved downward across the board. Plywood unit sales fell 14% to 206 million square feet, while unit sales for oriented strand board decreased 44% to 93.7 million square feet. Lumber unit sales also fell 15% to 174.3 million board feet.

On the same day it announced third quarter results, BlueLinx revealed plans to launch a line of privately branded engineered lumber products. The distributor is finalizing agreements with suppliers and expects the products to be available by mid-February.

The new product line will replace the Georgia-Pacific engineered wood products BlueLinx currently distributes. The agreement to distribute the Georgia-Pacific products ends on Feb. 12, 2012, after which the new line will be available.

"We look forward to continuing to service our customers' needs for engineered lumber and grow our business into the future," said Judd.