kohl's earnings kevin mansell

Kohl’s Corp. continued to struggle during the first quarter of the year.

While the department store retailer saw net income rise to $66 million from $17 million a year ago — when that quarter included a number of impairment charges related to store closures — Kohl’s total sales dropped 3.2 percent to $3.8 billion. Comparable-store sales also fell, by 2.7 percent.

The decline comes off of a fourth quarter in which sales declined 2.8 percent and net income fell by 15 percent.

Kohl’s chairman and chief executive officer Kevin Mansell admitted 2017 started off “weak,” but focused on a “significant improvement in sales and traffic for the March and April period,” which he said is encouraging.

Sales for those months are still down by 1 percent compared to last year, however.

The increase in March and April over the first two months of the year is primarily due to a jump in activewear sales related to the recent launch of Under Armour in stores, according to the company, which noted its women’s and accessories categories “continue to be challenging.”

Nike also performed well during the quarter, Mansell said during a call with Wall Street analysts, adding that “there will be more opportunities for additional new brands in additional areas of the stores.”

Mansell also pointed to an increase in mobile traffic and online sales, including Kohl’s program for in-store pick-up of online sales and fulfillment of online orders from store inventory.

“We have greater conviction than ever that leveraging our store assets as a longer-term strategy to provide best in class omnichannel experience is on target,” the ceo said.

Asked about further store closures during the year, Mansell didn’t specify any plans beyond admitting that a given store “at any time” could be evaluated for possible closure. Compared to this time last year, Kohl’s is operating 13 fewer stores.

The company is also continuing “optimization” efforts for a number of stores, which include “remerchandising and refixturing” full-size stores into smaller operations. It’s already been rolled out to about 200 stores and another 100 are set to be altered over the second quarter.

As for full-year guidance, Kohl’s offered no update from that given earlier this year, when it said sales are expected to fall at least another 1.3 percent.

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