By  on June 17, 2010

In its first quarter as a freestanding public company, Express Inc. quadrupled profits on double-digit increases in net and same-store sales.

Better full-price selling and strong margins drove the Columbus, Ohio-based firm’s  million, or 10 cents a share, in the year-ago quarter. net income to $30.6 million, or 39 cents a diluted share, for the period ended May 1, compared with $7.6

Adjusting for several onetime items associated with its public offering last month, the company said it earned $39.4 million, or 50 cents a share.

Net sales for the quarter expanded 13.9 percent to $426.5 million from $374.4 million.Comparable-store sales jumped 12 percent, as gross margin rose to 36.9 percent of sales from 29.9 percent a year earlier. E-commerce sales soared 57 percent.

“Our quarterly performance was driven by a favorable customer response to our product offerings across genders and categories, which led to strong sales and margins and drove a significant increase in profitability,” said Michael Weiss, president and chief executive officer.

Weiss touted Express’ “extensive testing program,” which helped it respond better to consumer demand, as well as the “better-than-expected” performance of the company’s new stores.

Express, which operates 576 units, said it opened seven doors and closed four in the first quarter. The company plans to open 15 stores and close two by yearend, bringing its store count to 589.

The retailer said it anticipates second-quarter comparable-store sales will increase in the mid- to high-single digits, compared with a 12 percent decline a year earlier. It also anticipates adjusted net income of between 5 cents and 7 cents a share in the second quarter, and full-year earnings per share in the range of $1.27 to $1.33.

Express, previously part of Limited Brands Inc., went public May 13 at $17 a share. On Wednesday, shares closed at $16.88, down 6 cents, or 0.4 percent.

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