By  on May 13, 2008

Ann Taylor Stores Corp. on Monday increased its first-quarter guidance based on strong reads at the Loft division and better overall expense and inventory management.

The company also said it will not pursue a new retail concept, but will continue moving forward with the launch of the Loft Outlet this summer.

The women's specialty retailer expects earnings per diluted share in the range of 45 to 47 cents, up from previous guidance of 35 to 40 cents a share.

Ann Taylor released preliminary sales numbers of $592 million, a 2 percent jump, from $580 million last year. Total same-store sales fell 4.3 percent for the quarter, with the Ann Taylor division down 11.5 percent and the Loft division up 0.7 percent.

The company will report first-quarter results on May 22.

Despite the boost in the first-quarter, Ann Taylor remains cautious going forward and maintained full-year guidance of $1.80 to $1.90 a diluted share, excluding restructuring costs.

Separately, Ann Taylor's senior vice president for stores, Sandra Tillet, was snatched by Charlotte Russe Holding Corp., where she will serve as senior vice president of stores, effective immediately.

Shares of the retailer rose 16.1 percent to close at $28.49 on a day when trading was up as stocks rallied due to a rising dollar. The Dow Jones Industrial average was up more than 130 points to close at 12,876.31, while the broader S&P 500 grew 1.1 percent to reach 1,403.58. The S&P Retail Index rose 2.7 percent to end the day at 405.89. Notable gainers included Limited Brands Inc., rising 4.7 percent to $18.80; J. Crew Group, up 2.3 percent to $47.60, and Target Corp., which jumped 2.4 percent to $53.48.

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