Urban Outfitters Inc. appears to be maintaining the improved sales pace it saw during last year’s final quarter, adding to optimism that its namesake division is making progress in its turnaround efforts.
In its annual report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission late Wednesday, UO said that comparable sales, including direct-to-consumer revenues, in its retail segment so far in the first quarter are up in the midsingle digits.
In the fourth quarter of last year, comps also rose in the midsingle digits, increasing 6 percent as comps were up 4 percent at UO, 6 percent at the Anthropologie Group and 18 percent at Free People.
That marked a significant improvement over the performance for the year, when overall retail comps rose 1.6 percent, with the challenged UO division’s 5.6 percent decrease for the year offset by increases of 5.8 and 19.2 percent at Anthropologie and Free People, respectively.
Noting that analysts’ consensus estimates for the quarter are for a retail segment increase of 5.2 percent, Stifel Nicolaus analyst Richard Jaffe estimated that comps are up in the midsingle digits at UO and Anthropologie and in the mid-teens at Free People, all in line with fourth-quarter performance.
“We remain convinced of the uniqueness and appeal of the Urban Outfitters division and the likelihood of continued improved performance,” Jaffe wrote in a research note to clients. “Currently, improvement is being driven by a more compelling merchandise assortment featuring a reduced style count.”
He expects “meaningful improvement” in at the UO nameplate in the second half of the year and expects upward movement in the stock in the days ahead. He maintained his “buy” rating and $50 target price.
Shares Wednesday closed down 2 percent at $44.75.