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Shares of Ann Inc. rose 8.2 percent after the specialty chain reported a 26.2 percent gain in net income in the third quarter, boosted by comparable-store sales growth in both Ann Taylor and Loft and a gross margin rate of nearly 58 percent.
For the three months ended Oct. 27, net income rose to $40.7 million, or 84 cents a diluted share, from $32.3 million, or 61 cents, in the same year-ago quarter. Net sales rose 8.6 percent to $612.5 million from $564 million.
The company said total company comps rose 5.5 percent for the quarter, on top of an increase of 5.5 percent in the same year-ago quarter. By brand, Ann Taylor comps rose 4.3 percent, which comprised a 5.6 gain at Ann Taylor stores and anntaylor.com and a 1.7 percent increase at the Ann Taylor Factory channel. At Loft, comps were up 6.2 percent, representing an 8 percent gain at Loft stores and loft.com that was slightly offset by a decline of 3 percent in the Loft Outlet channel.
Shares of Ann rose $2.67 to close at $35.10 in trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Kay Krill, president and chief executive officer, told Wall Street analysts during a conference call, “Our strong performance was driven by positive comps and strong margins at both the Ann Taylor and Loft brands….Gross margin rate reached nearly 58 percent for the quarter. Overall, our results demonstrate that both brands continue to win by remaining clearly focused on what’s important to our clients: great fashion, excellent quality, outstanding value and a seamless and engaging shopping experience.”
Krill also noted that the firm’s “multichannel results, which include the front-line stores and Internet sales from each brand, were positive at both Ann Taylor and Loft in every month of the quarter.”
For the quarter, the ceo said consumers shopping at the Ann Taylor nameplate favored tops, dresses and skirts, responding to the changes in the assortment mix. The firm made a decision earlier in the year to reduce its investment in suits and pants.
As for the Loft business, Krill said, “As we continue to get the word out about Loft, we are definitely gaining new clients to the brand….Our new skinny and superskinny fits in denim have been exceptional. Colored pants, including cords, have also been a standout. In fact, color overall has continued to be a huge win across categories. And she has responded very positively to Loft’s print and pattern offering. Knit dresses, skirts, tops, jackets and Loft Lounge also performed well.”
For the nine months, net income rose 18.8 percent to $100.2 million, or $2.05 a diluted share, on a net sales gain of 7.4 percent to $1.77 billion.
The company said it expects fourth quarter net sales at $625 million, with comps rising in the midsingle digits. For the full year, it expects net sales to be $2.4 billion, with a comps gain in the midsingle digits.