Thanks to a standout performance from Old Navy and a lower effective tax rate, Gap Inc. raised its full-year earnings guidance on Monday to a range of $2.86 to $2.87 from the previous spread of $2.73 to $2.78. That puts fourth-quarter earnings per share between 73 cents and 74 cents, above the 68-cent consensus estimate of analysts.
Incoming chief executive officer Art Peck isn’t going to have the benefit of brisk momentum, however, as he looks to turn around the company’s ailing namesake brand.
The firm reported its comparable-sales results for January and the fourth quarter and the results hardly could have been encouraging. The company comp slid 3 percent last month as the Gap brand — down 9 percent — erased a 3 percent increase at Old Navy and a 2 percent gain at Banana Republic. Thomson Reuters expected a 1 percent decline overall, a 4.5 percent dip at Gap brand and a gain of 2.6 percent at Banana Republic.
Old Navy, Gap’s largest brand, did manage to exceed expectations for a 0.1 percent advance.
There’s been no shortage of attention to the Gap brand since Peck was named to succeed Glenn Murphy as ceo. Since the appointment was disclosed, Jeff Kirwan was named Gap brand’s global president, succeeding Stephen Sunnucks, and Rebekka Bay, executive vice president and creative director of the brand, left the company and her position was eliminated.
In the fourth quarter, the corporate comp was up 2 percent and Gap brand’s decline a less dramatic 6 percent. Banana Republic rose 1 percent on a comp basis, and Old Navy again did the heavy lifting for the company with its 11 percent comp gain.
While net sales for the quarter rose 11.6 percent to $4.71 billion from $4.58 billion, the final month of the period — the least critical of the holiday quarter — saw sales recede 1.2 percent to $888 million from $899 million.
Stifel analyst Richard Jaffe, who maintained his “buy” rating on the stock, said he believed the company “is managing the [Gap] division’s costs and margins well” as it waits for new management to set a fresh direction and implement changes.
“Given the disappointing results at Gap division over the past year, the need for change was evident,” he said.
As many analysts had expected, Urban Outfitters Inc. was able to end its namesake division’s run of negative comp results as the brand’s unit advanced 4 percent on a comp basis during the fourth quarter, helping the company’s retail segment to a 6 percent gain. The Anthropologie Group was up 6 percent on a comp basis and Free People up 18 percent.
The Philadelphia-based firm’s net sales for the quarter rose 11.6 percent to $1.01 billion from $905.9 million, with retail up 11.1 percent, to $953.3 million, and wholesale up 20.6 percent to $57.8 million.
Richard Hayne, ceo, noted that the record sales in the period included “positive comps at each of our brands, with the direct-to-consumer channel continuing to outpace store sales. Although promotional activity was higher than planned, we are entering the spring selling season in a clean inventory position, and we are encouraged by the steady progress the Urban Outfitters brand is making in re-engaging its core customer.”
Both reports on fourth-quarter sales came out after the close of the markets Monday, and investors liked what they saw from Urban Outfitters while shrugging off the top-line results at Gap.
Urban’s shares added 7.2 percent, rising to $39.14, in the first 90 minutes of after-hours trading after dropping 0.4 percent during the regular trading session.
Gap shares were off 1.7 percent, to $41.10, during the day and lost another 0.8 percent, moving to $40.76 after trading concluded.