Chico’s FAS Inc.’s stock shot up nearly 9 percent Wednesday after the women’s apparel retailer posted not only a sizable rise in profits that handily topped analysts’ expectations, but also a double-digit same-store sales rise.
“It appears that our customers have responded to our efforts, and based on our third-quarter results, have voted with their pocketbooks,” president and chief executive officer David Dyer said on the company call. “However, before we burst out into irrational exuberance, I must remind you and those internally in our company that a lot of hard work lies ahead.”
Also on Wednesday, Limited Brands Inc. raised its full-year guidance after topping Wall Street’s projections with third-quarter earnings that more than tripled.
At Fort Myers, Fla.-based Chico’s, stronger merchandise and cost cutting helped boost net income more than tenfold to $22.7 million, or 13 cents a diluted share, for the three months ended Oct. 31, versus profit of $2 million, or 1 cent, in the year-ago quarter. Net sales for the quarter grew 13.3 percent to $446.9 million, versus $394.2 million. Analysts surveyed by Yahoo Finance anticipated earnings per share of 7 cents on revenue of $414.7 million, on average.
Same-store sales grew 12.8 percent, including a 12.2 percent rise at Chico’s/Soma Intimates’ brands and a 14.4 percent gain at White House|Black Market. The evidence of recovery at the store level helped boost Chico’s shares $1.19, or 8.8 percent, to $14.67 in trading Wednesday. They hit a new 52-week high of $15.43 in intraday trading.
Dyer, who became Chico’s ceo in January, pointed to the retailer’s robust performance in 2006, and said there’s “great opportunity” to improve on gross margin and reduce selling, general and administrative expenses.
Indeed, SG&A increased to $221 million, from $213.1 million for the quarter, but gross margin as a percentage of net sales improved to 57.6 percent, from 53.6 percent. This was due to “significant improvements in the brand merchandise margins at both brands,” which “benefited from lower markdowns and higher initial markups,” the company said.
For the 39 weeks, the retailer’s profit jumped to $52.1 million, or 29 cents, from $21.4 million, or 12 cents. Revenue edged up 5.7 percent to $1.28 billion, from $1.21 billion.
“A new management with operational discipline and improved product direction is leading a turnaround while the competition continues to struggle,” said Jeffries & Co. retail analyst Randal Konik. “With a leaner cost structure, we believe sales upside can drive considerable earnings leverage in the coming quarters.”
Limited, the Columbus, Ohio-based retailer which operates brands such as Victoria’s Secret and Bath & Body Works, said for the quarter ended Nov. 1, its net income grew to $14.9 million, or 5 cents a diluted share. This compared with year-ago net income of $4.2 million, or 1 cent a share. Excluding a tax-related benefit, net income totaled $6.1 million, or 2 cents, which beat analysts’ expectations of a loss of 1 cent a share.
Revenue for the quarter shrank 3.5 percent, to $1.78 billion from $1.84 billion, and receded 2 percent on a same-store basis. Gross margin improved to 31.7 percent of sales from 31.5 percent in the year-ago period.
For the nine months, the company’s profit contracted 54.2 percent to $91.8 million, or 28 cents a share, from $200.3 million, or 60 cents a share. Adjusted net income for the period fell 47.2 percent to $69 million, or 21 cents, from $131 million, or 39 cents. Revenue slid 8 percent to $5.57 billion, from $6.05 billion.
The retailer, which will detail its results in a conference call today, said it anticipates full-year adjusted earnings of between 93 cents and $1.08 a share, up from its prior outlook in the range of 75 cents to 90 cents. Analysts projected EPS of 97 cents.
Retail shares ended the day ahead as the S&P Retail Index advanced 0.22 points, or 0.1 percent, to 404.45 while the Dow Jones Industrial Average slipped 11.11 points, or 0.1 percent, to 10,426.31.
For more quarterly results, visit WWD.com/business-news.