Jason Mazzola has been promoted to president and chief executive officer of Citi Trends Inc., the Savannah, Ga.-based urban fashion specialty retailer, effective March 21.
As ceo, Mazzola will succeed Ed Anderson, who will remain with the company as executive chairman and chairman of the real estate committee.
Mazzola, who joined the company as executive vice president and chief merchandising officer in February 2012, previously served as chief merchandising officer of Ideeli Inc. and executive vice president of sales and design for Long Street Industries. He earlier worked at The TJX Cos. Inc. in a variety of merchandising roles, including senior vice president and general merchandise manager of its now defunct A.J. Wright division.
Mazzola will report to Anderson and join the company’s board, expanding its membership to six.
Citi Trends also promoted Bruce Smith, executive vice president and chief financial officer, to the additional post of chief operating officer.
Still, the company’s shares fell 10.2 percent in trading Friday when the retailer said that sales so far in the first quarter of 2015 had declined about 3 percent.
The transition in management came as the firm reported strong results for its fourth quarter and full year.
In the 13 weeks ended Jan. 31, net income more than tripled to $4.7 million, or 31 cents a diluted share, from year-ago profits of $1.5 million, or 10 cents, in the 2013 quarter. On average, analysts had expected EPS of 25 cents.
Sales rose 15.2 percent, to $181.1 million from $157.2 million, and were up 13.9 percent on a comparable-store basis. The consensus estimate for sales was $174.6 million. Comps were up 16 percent in women’s wear, 13 percent in both men’s wear and home, 20 percent in accessories and 11 percent in children’s.
Some of the strength in the fourth quarter came at the expense of sales in the first quarter to date, Anderson told analysts during a morning conference call. Earlier mailings of tax refunds meant that some consumers had those dollars in hand to spend in January, resulting in a shift that the outgoing ceo said accounted for virtually all of the 3 percent decline.
Additionally, he said, “the coldest February in the last 55 years” kept many consumers at home. “Our warm-weather stores – those located in the southernmost part of our territory — have performed well. These stores, which represent 11 of our 50 store districts, had sales increases in the first five weeks [of the first quarter]. So we believe our sales have been largely postponed and will improve as the weather warms up.”
Anderson was ceo of Citi Trends from 2001 to 2009 and in 2006 became chairman, a post he has held since then. He returned as ceo three years ago following the resignation of David Alexander as president and ceo.
“When I came back to the company at the beginning of 2012, my job was to lead a turnaround of the company,” he said Friday. “That work is largely complete as the company just reported a very successful 2014 and again is in strong financial condition.”
Mazzola’s appointment as chief merchant coincided with Anderson’s return as ceo.
For the full year, net income expanded to $9 million, or 60 cents a diluted share, from $464,000, or 3 cents, in fiscal 2013. Sales were up 7.8 percent, to $670.8 million from $622.2 million, and moved ahead 7.5 percent on a comp basis.
Shares Friday closed at $23.72, down $2.70 or 10.2 percent, after falling as much as 20 percent in morning trading on the Nasdaq.
Citi Trends operates 513 stores in 29 states.