Diane Gilman jeans.

Express shoppers are filling their shopping carts with dresses, woven tops and leggings.

But one item has been noticeably missing: jeans.

The clothing and apparel company announced third-quarter earnings Thursday with mixed results; the company’s bottom line beat Wall Street’s expectations, while same-stores sales were flat.

Income was $8 million for the quarter, up from $6 million during the third quarter of 2017. Meanwhile, sales were driven by the e-commerce business. Internet sales increased by 26 percent year-over-year to $149.1 million.

The increased earnings were likely the result of a reduced tax rate — nearly half of last year’s. Meanwhile, negative predictions about the company’s fourth quarter didn’t do much to ease investor concerns.

The stock plunged at the start of Thursday’s trading session, to more than 18 percent at one point.  

The fact that a clothing company missed a major fashion trend isn’t so unusual. Steven Marotta, senior research analyst at CL King & Associates, said companies are essentially guessing what consumers want six months to a year in advance.

“Some companies win and some lose,” Marotta said. “And Express is losing.”

But for a brand built on its jeans not to capitalize on the trend is surprising.

David Kornberg, president, chief executive officer and director of Express said on Thursday’s conference call that denim has been “challenging” for the business. Although he did concede that men’s jeans did better during the quarter than women’s.

“It’s a little bit baffling actually,” said Susan Anderson, an analyst at B. Riley FBR. “We’re basically in the best denim cycle we’ve seen in over a decade.”

In fact, after years of declining sales, partially caused by the rise of ath-leisure, jeans are making a comeback.

The U.S. jeans market grew 5 percent to $16.4 billion during the year ending July 2018, according to The NPD Group. And it’s not just classic blue jeans. Fashionistas and athletes alike are getting into denim again. Women’s jeans were especially popular. Sales of women’s jeans grew 9 percent during the same period, compared with the prior year.

Express might be missing the boat on denim, but other companies are not.

During Guess’ third-quarter earnings call, execs said the company had an uptick in denim during the most recent period. Big-box retailer Target Corp. offers almost every kind of denim jean and has even created new brands. And then there are the big players, like Levi’s, that have created brand loyalty with its consistency of products.  

“You already know, if I said to you, go buy yourself a pair of Levi’s, you’d already know what style and model you need right away,” said Marshal Cohen, chief industry officer at The NPD Group. “Trying on jeans is one of the least favorite experiences for consumers — even more so for men. Men don’t even like to try on clothes.”

“So going into Express or some of these other chain stores, trying on jeans all over again, not happening,” he said. In addition, Express lacks the options that fill other stores.

“They may not have relaxed jeans; they may not have full-cut jeans; they may not have high-waisted jeans,” Cohen said. “They’re not invested in the full range of styles like they were five years ago where you walked in and there was a whole wall of jeans. Now if you go, there’s a very small section of jeans.”   

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