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Kohl’s, Nordstrom See Profit Erosion

Both beat expectations but drive guidance in opposite directions.

Kohl’s Corp. and Nordstrom Inc. both reported lower second-quarter earnings that beat analysts’ expectations Thursday, but Kohl’s pushed second-half expectations upward while Nordstrom went in the opposite direction.

At Kohl’s, second-quarter earnings fell 12.3 percent to $236 million, or 77 cents a diluted share, from $269.2 million, or 83 cents, a year ago. Analysts were expecting the chain to earn 73 cents a share, according to Yahoo Finance.

Sales for the three months ended Aug. 2 inched up 3.8 percent to $3.73 billion from $3.59 billion. Comparable-store sales fell 4.6 percent.

The “results reflect strong inventory management and increased penetration of private and exclusive brands,” said Larry Montgomery, chairman and chief executive officer.

The firm’s gross margin rate expanded to 39.6 percent of sales from 38.9 percent.

During the first half, earnings dropped 18.7 percent to $389 million, or $1.26 a diluted share, on a 2.6 percent rise in sales to $7.35 billion.

For the full year, the Menomonee Falls, Wis.-based midtier retailer is looking for earnings of $3.02 to $3.18 a diluted share, up from previous projections of $2.95 to $3.15 a share.

Nordstrom outperformed analysts’ expectations for second-quarter profits despite a 20.6 percent decline, but trimmed second-half guidance.

With sales lower and markdowns higher, Seattle-based Nordstrom reported a 20.6 percent drop in net earnings to $143 million, or 65 cents a diluted share, compared with net earnings of $180 million, or 71 cents, in the year-ago period. Revenues for the three months ended Aug. 2 dipped 4.3 percent to $2.29 billion, versus $2.39 billion during the 2007 period. Analysts polled by Yahoo Finance expected EPS of 64 cents on revenues of $2.31 billion.

Same-store sales decreased 6 percent, but were down 9 percent at full-line stores. Same-store sales rose 6.3 percent at Nordstom Rack. At Nordstrom Direct, sales rose 14.6 percent.

Three of the company’s five annual sales events were held during the second quarter, the company said.

Gross margin decreased 168 basis points to 35 percent of sales from 36.6 percent a year ago.

For the six months, net earnings declined 22.3 percent to $262 million, or $1.19 a diluted share, from $337 million, or $1.30 a share, in last year’s first half. Net sales dropped 4.1 percent to $4.2 billion from $4.3 billion.

The retailer anticipates third-quarter earnings per diluted share to be in the range of 49 to 54 cents with same-store sales down 4 to 6 percent. For the fiscal year, the company revised guidance to $2.25 to $2.65, down from the previous range of $2.65 to $2.80. Gross margins are expected to be 110 to 140 basis points lower than in fiscal 2007, greater than the previously announced 60 to 90 basis point decrease.