Shares of Citi Trends Inc. jumped 13.44 percent in late-morning trading after the retailer posted fourth-quarter results that beat Wall Street’s estimates by 2 cents.
For the quarter ended Jan. 28, net income spiked 59.5 percent to $5.6 million, or 38 cents a diluted share, from net income of $3.5 million, or 24 cents, a year ago. Net sales rose 5.4 percent to $185.5 million from $176.1 million on a comparable-store sales gain of 3.4 percent.
The consensus among Wall Street analysts was earnings per share of 36 cents on revenues of $185.5 million.
Bruce D. Smith, chief operating officer and chief financial officer, told analysts that higher comps “reflected a 6 percent increase in the average number of items per transaction, and a 5 percent increase in the number of customer transactions, partially offset by decline in the average unit sale of 7 percent.” He also said apparel sales improved in the quarter. Men’s rose 6 percent after declining 7 percent a year ago, while women’s rose 3 percent after an 8 percent decrease a year ago. Accessories and footwear sales rose 2 percent after being down 2 percent a year ago.
Jason T. Mazzola, president and chief executive officer, told analysts in a conference call: “As we turn our attention to 2017, we believe we are well-positioned to deliver positive comp-store sales for the year. We are relentlessly focused on delivering outstanding product and value [that] excites our customer, fuels loyalty and drive spending.”
He said the fashion content of the women’s business “has improved nicely over the last six months. We have a balanced assortment of basics, fashion basics and fashion. And our fashion piece of the business, we are delivering more on-trend merchandising each day. The mix looks and feels more compelling.”
Mazzola also said sales to date in comparable stores have declined 7 percent in the first quarter, but noted that there has been a delay in the timing of tax refund distributions compared with 2016. The ceo noted that its customers are “particularly sensitive to the timing of these refunds.” He also said “we are encouraged by the sales momentum we have experienced coinciding with the first meaningful tax refunds distributed by the IRS beginning on Feb. 22…. [W]e are hopeful that with our improved merchandizing strategies as well as a later Easter, we can make up the balance by the end of the quarter.”
The ceo also said inventories were in good shape heading into the first quarter, with total company inventory down 1.7 percent, leaving dollars open to take advantage of opportunistic buys.
What was not addressed on the call was the letter the company’s board received from activist investor Macellum Capital Management. On Thursday the activist investor sent a letter nominating four director candidates for election at the retailer’s 2017 annual meeting of shareholders on May 24. The investor said it was concerned with the firm’s underperformance and that with the right board oversight and governance, the retailer’s stock price could double.
Citi Trends on Thursday said it has had discussions with Macellum and that it concluded that a change in the board proposed by the activist investor “was not in the best interest of Citi Trends and its stockholders….” The retailer also said that there were subsequent discussions regarding how to settle the issues, but that options proposed by the company were rejected by Macellum.
Shares of Citi Trends were trading on the Nasdaq exchange at $18.91 at 11:30 a.m. The 52-week high was $22.73 and the low was $14.01.