At least some of the retail executives flying into Orlando to update investors at the ICR Conference are bringing glad tidings from the holiday sales season.
Kevin Mansell, Kohl’s Corp.’s outgoing chief executive officer, will come ready with a 6.9 percent comparable sales increase for November and December combined. And Lululemon Athletica Inc. ceo Laurent Potdevin will come in with a fourth-quarter comp increase in the high-single digits, on a constant dollar basis.
Not everyone is so fortunate and others at the two-day conference, which helps set the tone of the New Year in retail, will be explaining away declines, including Ascena Retail Group Inc. and Chico’s FAS Inc.
After a tough slog through 2017, retail in general perked up some headed into the holidays. Whether that momentum holds remains an open question, but even though the sector is expected to remain in serious flux some retailers are showing signs that they’re starting to get a handle on how to play in a new, much more digital world.
Kohl’s Mansell said sales were “consistently strong” in November and December.
“All lines of business and all regions reported positive comp sales,” he said. “As expected, growth in digital demand accelerated significantly in the holiday period from the year-to-date trend. In addition, we experienced positive sales in our stores driven by stronger traffic.”
Kohl’s is now looking for diluted earnings per share for 2017 to hit $4.10 to $4.20, up from the $3.72 to $3.92 previously projected. (That does not factor in a projected boost from changes in the federal tax code).
Lululemon said its fourth-quarter net revenues would range from $905 million to $915 million, up from guidance of $870 million to $885 million. That will lead to diluted earnings pre share of $1.24 to $1.26, up from the $1.18 to $1.21 previously forecast.
Potdevin said the results reflect “an accelerating trend across all parts of our business.”
While Potdevin and Mansell might have something to crow about, others, particularly in the mall specialty space, continue to search for the right formula.
Chico’s said its fourth-quarter comps would fall by 5 percent to 7 percent and Ascena’s total comps fell down 3 percent for the holiday period.
David Jaffe, ceo of Ascena, noted: “While holiday performance was mixed across our brand portfolio, we were pleased with the continued comp acceleration at Justice, along with the significant trend improvement at both Loft and Lane Bryant, which were five points better than the prior quarter.” But the company has been working on “merchandising issues” at Dress Barn, where comps fell 13 percent over the holiday season.
Not scheduled to speak at the two-day ICR conference is the embattled Bon-Ton Stores Inc.
Bill Tracy, ceo of Bon-Ton, said: “The company’s holiday period comparable store sales decrease of 2.9 percent is an improvement from the comparable store sales decrease of 6.6 percent reported in the third quarter. We are actively engaged in discussions with our debt holders in an effort to strengthen our capital structure to support the business going forward.”