Francesca’s Holdings Corp. reported increasing sales in the fourth quarter, but gave a first-quarter forecast that was below expectations.
Net income for the quarter was $14.7 million, or 35 cents a diluted share, up from $6 million, or 14 cents, a year ago. Adjusted earnings per share totaled 36 cents and were 2 cents above the 34 cents analysts projected.
Net sales for the three months ending Jan. 30 increased 25 percent to $134.6 million from $107.6 million a year earlier. The increase was attributed to an 11 percent increase in comp sales, plus the opening of 83 stores in fiscal 2015.
Merchandise margins increased by 290 basis points and gross profits as a percentage of net sales increased to 49.1 percent from 45.7 percent in the prior year. For the full year, the company’s net sales increased 16 percent to $439.4 million over the previous year’s $377.5 million.
“We are particularly pleased with the sequential improvement in our apparel sales, which grew 35 percent during the fourth quarter, as well as with the performance in our nonapparel sales, which increased 19 percent,” said Michael Barnes, chief executive officer of Francesca’s.
Unfortunately, investors were not pleased with the company’s forecast and the stock was selling off by 3 percent to $16.80 in early trading. Francesca’s guided analysts to earnings in the range of 17 to 20 cents per diluted share. FactSet estimates for the first quarter were for 21 cents.
Francesca’s forecast earnings per share for the 2017 fiscal year to be in the range of 93 cents to $1.03, which was also shy of the estimate of $1.03. This slowing pace of growth has disappointed investors.
The board also authorized a $100 million share buyback. The stock is up almost 3 percent for the past year, but in the last six months it has climbed 40 percent.
The retailer also announced the appointment of Kelly Dilts as executive vice president and chief financial officer. Dilts comes to Francesca’s from Tailored Brands.