Dress Barn Inc. on Wednesday raised its guidance for fiscal 2010 profits by 15 cents and said it has been buoyed by consumers trading down from other retailers and better-than-expected performances at its Dress Barn, Maurices and Justice divisions.
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“All three are value priced. They are not focused on premier or down-and-dirty budget prices,” David Jaffe, president and chief executive officer, said at the $2.5 billion company’s investor meeting in New York.
“There’s been a trade-down effect,” Jaffe said, surmising some consumers have shifted their dollars to the divisions of Dress Barn Inc., and away from Talbots and Ann Taylor, among other retailers.
“Justice will be accretive to earnings for fiscal 2010. We originally expected accretion in the second full year” after the merger, said Armand Correia, DBI’s executive vice president and chief financial officer.
The company raised its diluted earnings per share guidance for the fiscal year ending July 31 to $1.35 to $1.45, compared with previous guidance of $1.20 to $1.30. On the news, shares of Dress Barn in Nasdaq trading Wednesday closed up 81 cents, or 3.7 percent, at $22.51.
Dress Barn acquired the $950 million Justice tween chain through a merger with Tween Brands Inc. that was completed last month. The Tween Brands deal brings Dress Barn to a younger demographic, 7- to 14-year-old girls, compared with women ages 17 to 34 targeted by Maurices and the 34- to 54-year-old women targeted by Dress Barn. The company does not sell men’s wear, though the Maurices division did until two years ago, when the category was replaced by large sizes for women.
“As far as another live, breathing acquisition, at this point, I would say absolutely not,” said Jaffe.
Justice will remain an independently run operation based in New Albany, Ohio, and headed by Michael Rayden, ceo. However, by putting Justice under the DBI umbrella, there will be $5 million in annual overhead savings, and other savings and synergies through greater negotiating leverage with landlords and by utilizing Justice’s direct sourcing offices to eliminate middle men. Dress Barn and Maurices primarily source through agents.
Executives said Justice, Dress Barn and Maurices each could be 1,000-unit chains. Justice has 906 units, Dress Barn operates 846, while Maurices has 741.
Other growth plans cited include:
• The Dress Barn division will launch e-commerce next fall.
• The Dress Barn division’s exclusive Jones Studio collection will roll out in the spring to all stores in both regular and large sizes. Jones Studio emphasizes suit separates and is created by Jones Apparel Group Inc. The collection occupies roughly 5 percent of the floor space in the stores and includes jackets, priced at $79.99 to $99.99; pants, $49.99 to $59.99, and knit layering pieces and blouses, $29.99 to $49.99.
• Petites continues to be rolled out, with 400 stores set to carry the sizes by spring, from about 360 currently.
• In fiscal 2010, Maurices will open about 35 stores and close five to 10; Dress Barn will open 15 and close 15, and Justice will close roughly 20 and open 20. Dress Barn stores average 7,500 square feet; Maurices, 5,000 square feet, and Justice, 4,500 square feet.
• Justice could open as many as 75 stores in Canada. The brand has 35 stores overseas, through joint ventures. Most are in the Middle East; others are in Russia.
• Dress Barn and Maurices don’t operate abroad, though Canada is considered a possibility.
Justice, considered the third largest tween retailer in the U.S., behind Wal-Mart and Target, and just ahead of J.C. Penney, Kohl’s, Old Navy and Aéropostale, is projected to post $650 million in sales in fiscal 2010. Dress Barn is seen generating $640 million in sales, and Maurices, $960 million.