Retailer W. Bell & Co. Inc., struggling through a corporate restructuring, said it narrowed its loss in its first fiscal quarter to $427,200 (14 cents a share) from $580,600 (19 cents) a year ago.

The Rockville-based company, which operates 18 catalogue showrooms in the Washington, Baltimore and Chicago areas, wrote off five outlets in the Houston area and restructured its customer-service and direct mail marketing operations earlier this year in an effort to reverse a steady string of losses.

The company said, however, that a first-quarter loss is traditional in its fiscal year.

Bell said that it "remains optimistic" about the outlook for sales in the Christmas season.

It also said that it hopes the restructuring will return the company to profitability next year.

The company said it had sales of $20.2 million in the quarter that ended Sept. 26, off 14 percent from $20.2 million a year ago.

Questech Inc., a McLean technology services company, said its third-quarter profit rose 28 percent, to $341,800 (22 cents), from $267,400 (18 cents) a year ago. Revenue rose 40 percent, to $16.1 million from $11.5 million.

For the first nine months of the year, Questech said it earned $1.1 million (70 cents), up 63 percent from $664,800 (44 cents) a year ago.

Nine-month revenue rose 37 percent, to $46.4 million from $33.9 million.