Shares of Christopher & Banks Corp. lost more than a quarter of their value in morning trading Thursday when the company projected a sharp decline in sales for the fourth quarter.
Shares pulled back $1.96, or 28.5 percent, to $4.91 in the aftermath of the guidance, which accompanied a third-quarter earnings report in which the company surpassed analysts’ consensus estimates for earnings while falling short of those for sales.
In the three months ended Nov. 1, the Minneapolis-based specialty chain registered net income of $9 million, or 24 cents a diluted share, 4.3 percent above the $8.6 million, or 23 cents, posted in the 2013 period. This beat estimates for EPS of 21 cents.
Sales fell short of the $115.7 million expected, dropping 6.3 percent to $110.6 million from $118.1 million. Same-store sales slid 7.6 percent with the company operating an average of 7.8 percent fewer stores this year than last.
Gross margin expanded to 39.5 percent from 38.1 percent as cost of goods sold declined 8.6 percent, more than the descent in sales.
C&B didn’t provide EPS guidance for the fourth quarter, but it did project sales of between $94 million and $98 million, 6.6 percent to 10.4 percent below the $104.9 million recorded in the comparable period last year. Gross margin is expected to be “relatively flat,” the company said. On average, analysts had expected EPS for the quarter to land at 3 cents.
In the third quarter, traffic and conversion were down, offset to a degree by increases in average unit retail and units per transaction.
On a morning conference call with analysts, LuAnn Via, president and chief executive officer, said the company entered the third quarter expecting strong results only to see a drop-off that roughly coincided with the introduction of Apple’s iPhone 6 after Labor Day.
“Obviously, we could always make improvements in our assortment and we do have things that are selling,” she said. “So they’re buying that, and there’s some fashion but, overall, I haven’t seen this type of an impact, so widespread across the retail sector outside of electronics, in a very long time and there is no single factor that you can attribute it to, which is a little concerning.”
She said data she’d seen indicated the weak traffic patterns extended to department as well as specialty stores and also to lifestyle and strip centers.
C&B currently operates 553 stores under the Christopher & Banks, CJ and MPW (for missy, petite and women’s) nameplates but is in the process of converting its entire fleet to the MPW brand. It’s also expanding its outlet store operations.