Oxford Industries Inc. bemoaned what chief executive and president Thomas Chubb 3rd called “turbulent and unpredictable” business conditions during the second half of the year as it reported third-quarter results below Wall Street’s expectations and brought down fourth-quarter and full-year guidance.
Chubb told analysts on a conference call on Thursday, “Our physical store locations were not immune to the effects of the weak traffic and the highly promotional environment and, as a result, sales in our stores were softer than we planned.”
Meanwhile, e-commerce results remained relatively strong and Chubb made clear Oxford’s “commitment to maintaining the integrity of our brands during this difficult trading period remains unwavering. We have no plans to adopt a more promotional stance in either Tommy Bahama or Lilly Pulitzer and do not anticipate any erosion in our gross margin.”
But its expectations for the fourth quarter were reduced, with sales now expected in a range of between $267 million and $277 million and adjusted earnings per share of between 96 cents and $1.06. Analysts, on average, had expected sales of $280.7 million and adjusted EPS of $1.18. Full-year guidance was reset for adjusted EPS of between $2.85 and $2.95, from an earlier range of between $3 and $3.15, and sales are expected to finish the year between $990 million and $1 billion rather than the $1 billion estimate provided in September.
For the three months ended Nov. 1, Oxford registered a net loss of $74,000, or zero cents a share, versus net income of $889,000, or 5 cents a share, in the year-ago period. Adjusted EPS came to a 1-cent profit, just below the 2-cent profit expected, on average, by analysts. Gross margin fell to 51.5 percent of sales from 53.1 percent in the prior-year quarter.
Sales were $210.5 million, 11.1 percent above the $197.5 million in last year’s quarter, but well below the $222.9 million consensus estimate.
All divisions but Ben Sherman registered sales increases, and double-digit ones at that. Tommy Bahama was up 10.4 percent to $125.4 million, Lilly Pulitzer ahead 18.9 percent to $36 million and, helped by a private-label program at a wholesale club, Lanier Clothes up 19 percent to $35.9 million.
Tommy Bahama stores recorded a 2 percent increase in same-store sales, while Lilly Pulitzer’s rose 7 percent. Both brands were helped by strong responses to e-commerce flash sales, consistent with Chubb’s assessment about the relative strength of the company’s online businesses.
He added that, while traffic remains “soft” at Oxford’s stores, conversion rates have performed “nicely.”
Ben Sherman’s sales fell 1.9 percent to $18.3 million during the quarter, and it trended more deeply into the red, with a $2.2 million operating loss. Chubb stuck to his earlier assessment that the biggest improvement for the challenged brand would be in the fourth quarter, especially with some movement of wholesale orders into the period that were originally expected to be realized in the third quarter.
Chubb acknowledged that Oxford anticipates “a forward shift of some early spring wholesale shipments into February, the beginning of the first quarter, from January, the end of the fourth quarter.
He noted that difficult traffic and sales patterns had continued into November, but that December had been “better thus far.”