American Eagle Outfitters Seeking New CEO

The company announced Wednesday that James O’Donnell would retire, a move welcomed by a number of analysts.

American Eagle Outfitters Inc.’s stock rose more than 5 percent Wednesday after the teen apparel retailer said fourth-quarter profits rose 46.7 percent and that it was seeking a new chief executive officer.

This story first appeared in the March 10, 2011 issue of WWD.  Subscribe Today.

The company, which has been struggling to stand out on both the price and merchandise fronts in fierce competition with rivals Abercrombie & Fitch Co. and Aéropostale Inc., said ceo James O’Donnell would retire, a move welcomed by a number of analysts. Shares closed at $15.56, up 76 cents, or 5.1 percent.

In other earnings news Wednesday, The Bon-Ton Stores Inc. exceeded analysts’ EPS consensus estimates by 11 cents, sending its stock up 10.5 percent, while Coldwater Creek Inc. fell short of estimates in results disclosed after the close of the market, sending shares down sharply in after-hours trading. The S&P Retail Index pulled ahead 0.7 percent to 510.30 while the major indices gave up ground. With crude oil prices continuing to move up, the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell less than 0.1 percent to 12,213.09 on the second anniversary of the index’s lowest point since April 1997. The market is currently 89.6 percent higher than the 6,440.08 intraday low hit on March 9, 2009.

American Eagle recorded net income of $87 million, or 44 cents a diluted share, for the three months ended Jan. 29, 1 cent better than analysts expected. Year-ago net income was $59.3 million, or 29 cents. Excluding a year-ago loss from discontinued operations, income totaled $87 million versus $79.6 million a year earlier.

Sales for the quarter fell 4.2 percent to $916.1 million from $955.8 million. Comparable-store sales declined 7 percent, as gross margin shrank to 39.4 percent of sales, compared with year-ago margin of 41 percent.

O’Donnell, 70, will remain with the Pittsburgh-based company until a successor is appointed. A veteran of Gap Inc., he’s been with the retailer for 11 years as chief operating officer, co-ceo and for the past eight years as ceo.

Snubbed by holiday shoppers, Coldwater Creek reported that its fourth-quarter loss grew to $37 million, or 40 cents a diluted share, 14 cents worse than analysts expected, from a loss of $9.7 million, or 11 cents.

The Sandpoint, Idaho-based company said net sales sunk 20.8 percent to $252.1 million, from $318.4 million, in the year-ago period. Comps fell 20.5 percent while gross margin contracted to 24.1 percent of sales from year-ago margin of 28.4 percent.

Reflecting on a number of changes in staffing and merchandising, chairman and ceo Dennis Pence said 2011 would be a “transitional year,” adding, “We believe that we are taking the right steps to reinvigorate our brand and enhance our merchandise appeal.”

At Bon-Ton, based in York, Pa., net income rose 5.9 percent to $85 million, or $4.41 a diluted share, from $80.3 million, or $4.34, last year. Analysts polled by Yahoo Finance expected EPS of $4.30.

Total revenues rose 0.7 percent to $1.03 billion from $1.02 billion, which included a 0.8 percent increase in sales to $1.01 billion from $1 billion last year and a 0.8 percent rise in comparable-store sales.

The company reversed a loss in 2009 by posting year-end profits of $21.5 million, or $1.12 a diluted share, as revenues inched up 0.4 percent to $3.05 billion from $3.03 billion.

Shares skyrocketed $1.62 to close at $17.04 Wednesday.