Shares of Vera Bradley Inc. hit an all-time low and lost more than 14 percent of their value Wednesday after the Fort Wayne, Ind.-based handbag marketer posted an unexpected loss and reduced full-year guidance.
Before closing at $12.16, shares hit an all-time low of $12.13 in late afternoon trading.
The company recorded a net loss of $4.1 million, or 1 cent a diluted share, in the three months ended May 2. That came against a year-ago profit of $6.6 million, or 16 cents. Eliminating charges and one-time items, adjusted EPS was zero cents a share, below the consensus estimate of a 2-cent profit.
Revenues slid 9.9 percent to $101.1 million from $112.2 million and landed below the $105.5 million expected, on average, by analysts. Gross margin declined to 51.1 percent of sales from 53.3 percent in the prior-year period.
Robert Wallstrom, chief executive officer, minced no words with analysts and investors during a morning conference call. “It is frustrating to us and, I’m sure, you that the progress we have made is not reflected in our current financial results. It is evident that our overall business trends remained difficult. We are not attracting enough new customers to the brand and traffic and sales are still very challenging.”
Through surveys with former and prospective customers, the ceo said, Vera Bradley has learned that it needs to supplement, but not eliminate, its quilted cotton bag assortments and continue to cut back on promotional activity among specialty stores. He referred to the attitude of its department store customers and prospects as “enthusiastic” and said its specialty store partners feel it is “heading in the right direction” despite lower reorder activity in that channel.
“We will continue to innovate and modernize our products, increase exposure to our brand and offerings by prudently growing our distribution points, including department stores, and drive brand and product awareness through our elevated marketing efforts,” Wallstrom said.
While confident the company is taking the right steps to improve its financial results, the ceo expects the changes to be slow to take effect.
In the meantime, the company reduced quarterly and full-year guidance to levels below those offered in previous guidance and those expected by Wall Street. Second-quarter EPS is expected to come in at between 12 and 16 cents, below the previous analysts’ consensus estimate of 18 cents. For the full year, EPS guidance was lowered to a range of between 64 and 74 cents, versus the prior range of between 82 and 92 cents. Revenues, expected to end the year at between $510 million and $525 million, are now expected to conclude 2015 at between $480 million and $495 million.
“Vera’s brand transformation appears to have an issue with exposure, as most customers are not cognizant of the myriad of changes,” worte Wunderlich Securities analyst Eric Beder in a research note, adding his concerns that “the lackluster 1Q may turn into a lackluster year as the company undergoes what so far has been a painful shift to bring more consumers to the brand.”