The Aerie concept store in New York.

American Eagle Outfitters is still growing — but investors are looking for more. 

The retailer, which includes American Eagle and intimates apparel concept Aerie, reported fourth-quarter results Wednesday that showed improvement on the top and bottom lines.

Total sales for the three-month period ending Feb. 2 increased by $15 million, or 1 percent, to $1.24 billion. Profits also increased by 1 percent, or $5 million, to $431 million. Comparable sales rose 6 percent, marking the company’s 16th consecutive quarter of positive comps growth. For all of 2018, the company had roughly $4 billion in sales. 

“This level of consistency is a real standout in the industry,” said Jay Schottenstein, chief executive officer of American Eagle Outfitters Inc., on a conference call with analysts.

Still, revenues were slightly below analysts’ expectations and earnings per share projections were on the low side at 19 cents to 21 cents a share for 2019’s first quarter. Analysts were looking for earnings of 24 cents a share. 

The stock, which closed Wednesday’s trading session 4.4 percent higher at $21.32, quickly started trading down by as much as 5 percent in after-hours trading.

But Schottenstein had plenty to trumpet.

“Business strength in 2018 was broad-based as we again achieved growth across markets, brands and channels,” the ceo said. He added that there might be the chance for the parent company to acquire other businesses “down the road.”

Recent highlights include American Eagle’s jeans business, which surpassed $1 billion in sales last year. The other was the Aerie division.

American Eagle’s fourth-quarter comps rose 3 percent, while Aerie surged 23 percent — on top of a 34 percent increase last year. 

“That’s a two-year stack of 57 percent,” said Jennifer Foyle, global brand president of Aerie.

This year, the company plans to continue growing Aerie’s retail footprint with 60 to 75 stores. The latest batch will be in markets such as California, Texas and Florida, places where the company doesn’t already have a presence.

The expansion comes at a time when the intimates industry is facing stiff competition for customer loyalty. In addition to lingerie market share leader Victoria’s Secret, several start-ups, such as Adore Me and ThirdLove, are also entering the space, hoping to snatch up customers. Big-box retailer Target Corp. is also upping its game the bra and underwear categories.

But Foyle isn’t worried.

“We have tons of competition out there,” she said. “There’s a lot of pure play on the digital front in intimates.

“What we do different at Aerie is we really focus on what we are going to deliver to the customer. So our teams are engaged in what the missing styles are, what the news trends are and how we can focus in the stores. That’s really the difference of what Aerie does compared to these big department stores.”

Wedbush analyst Jennifer Redding rated the stock outperform and pointed out that a company like American Eagle is also a safe bet amid continued tariff tensions with China. 

“We continue to favor U.S.-focused retailers with little Chinese exposure like [American Eagle Outfitters] who stand to benefit from capital deployment into the U.S. as well as a strong U.S. consumer,” Redding wrote in a recent note. “We would be buyers.”  

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