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Aeropostale Leads Specialty Retailers

Among the specialty retailers releasing first-quarter results Thursday, fashion misses and the weather were a common theme, but at least one company, Aéropostale, bucked the trend.

Among the specialty retailers releasing first-quarter results Thursday, fashion misses and the weather were a common theme, but at least one company, Aéropostale, bucked the trend.

Although AnnTaylor Stores Corp. on Thursday said first-quarter profits fell by 19.3 percent, it managed to reaffirm its outlook for diluted earnings per share for fiscal 2007 in the range of $2.15 to $2.25. For the three months ended May 5, earnings dropped to $31.5 million, or 46 cents a diluted share, from $39 million, or 53 cents, in the same year-ago quarter. Sales rose 4.3 percent to $580.3 million from $556.2 million, while total same-store sales fell 3.3 percent. By division, sales at Ann Taylor inched up by 0.3 percent to $222.2 million from $221.5 million, with same-store sales gaining 0.9 percent. At Loft, sales gained 0.3 percent to $274.3 million from $273.6 million, but comps fell 9 percent.

“As we expected, our results in the first quarter were mixed. Our Ann Taylor division continued to offer compelling product assortments that resonated with our clients and drove increased full-price selling, while our Loft division continued to be challenged with a product assortment that was not balanced and did not offer enough updated classics or color,” said Kay Krill, president and chief executive officer, in a statement.

Krill said Loft was very promotional throughout the quarter, but that product assortments have been improved at Loft and the company expects the division to be on track for the second half of the year.

Teen retailer Aéropostale Inc. had no first-quarter worries. The retailer’s profits skyrocketed 64.4 percent to $13.8 million, or 26 cents a diluted share, from $8.4 million, or 15 cents, in the same year-ago quarter. Sales climbed 12 percent to $275.8 million from $246.3 million, while same-store sales gained 2.5 percent.

“We are very pleased with our performance for the first quarter, the results of which significantly exceeded our expectations. Our balanced and trend-right merchandise assortments are continuing to be received positively by our customers,” said Julian R. Geiger, chairman and ceo, in a statement.

At New York & Co. Inc., first-quarter profit fell to $802,000, or 1 cent a diluted share, from $6.1 million, or 10 cents, in the same year-ago quarter. The drop in profit was due to costs associated with arbitration proceedings and inventory liquidation, both involving the JasmineSola business. Sales gained 6.3 percent to $284 million from $267.1 million, with comps declining by 1.2 percent.

“Our first-quarter results were in line with our updated guidance and reflected a positive performance in February and March, offset by a difficult April.…Sales in May have rebounded with comparable-store sales trending positively, reflecting strength in our assortments,” said Richard Crystal, chairman and ceo, in a statement.

Charming Shoppes Inc. posted an 18 percent drop in net income to $26.3 million, or 20 cents a share, from $32.1 million, or 24 cents, in the same year-ago period. Sales rose 6.8 percent to $784.7 million from $734.9 million. The retail stores business saw sales climb 9.2 percent to $685.5 million from $627.4 million, while same-store sales were flat for the quarter. Sales at the retailer’s direct-to-consumer segment fell 8 percent to $98.4 million from $107.4 million.

Dorrit J. Bern, chairman, president and ceo, said in a statement that the company’s performance was “negatively impacted by unfavorable weather trends during the quarter.”

Bern also noted the company’s new licensing agreement with Wrangler Apparel Corp., a subsidiary of VF Corp., for the exclusive use of the Gitano brand name. She said the Gitano brand will begin arriving at its stores in the third quarter, with offerings in plus and misses’ sportswear, as well as footwear.