Burlington Stores Inc., citing strong sales trends, expense leverage, share repurchases and lower taxes, reported Thursday that its first-quarter net income rose 58 percent to $82.6 million, or $1.20 per share, versus $52.4 million, or 73 cents, in the year-ago quarter.
Adjusted net income increased 54 percent to $87 million, or $1.26 per share, versus $56.6 million, or 79 cents a share, last year.
“We are very pleased to kick off fiscal 2018 with strong first-quarter results, driven by a 4.8 percent comparable-store sales increase,” said chief executive officer Tom Kingsbury. “Our overall 12.8 percent sales growth (to $1.52 billion) along with our 70 basis point adjusted [earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization] margin improvement enabled the company to drive a 59 percent increase in adjusted earnings per share in the first quarter, well ahead of our guidance. I would like to thank our store, supply chain and corporate teams for contributing to these strong results.”
Wall Street was clearly pleased, too, lifting the stock 8 percent, or about $11 to $147.50 by late morning.
Other major off-pricers, including The TJX Cos. and Ross Stores, also saw strong sales, traffic and earnings growth in the first quarter, though there is some impact across the retail industry from higher freight and wage costs.
Reflecting confidence in its operations, the $6.1 billion off-pricer raised its guidance for the year. Adjusted earnings per share is now seen in the range of $5.90 to $6, utilizing a fully diluted share count of approximately 68.9 million. Previously, the company forecast adjusted EPS of $5.73 to $5.83.
The 647-unit off-pricer is accelerating its store opening program, and has a goal of operating 1,000 units over time. This year, the company is planning to have 35 to 40 net new stores and capital expenditures of approximately $250 million. It could capitalize on Toys ‘R’ Us closing stores, as it did when Sports Authority liquidated.
The comparable-store sales increase of 4.8 percent marked the 21st consecutive comp-store sales growth for the off-price chain, and the company expects to extend the string of gains.
For the second quarter, total sales are seen rising 8 to 9 percent, and comparable-store sales are seen increasing 2 to 3 percent.
For 2018 overall, the off-pricer expects total sales to increase 9.7 to 10.5 percent, and comparable-store sales to increase 2.6 to 3.4 percent.
During a conference call, Kingsbury cited home; beauty; better, moderate, active and team sportswear; men’s shoes; athletics shoes, and Baby Depot as the strongest categories.
Kingsbury said the company is capitalizing on “a favorable buying environment,” meaning there is a good availability of products and brands to add to the assortment. He also said the percent of “aged” inventory at Burlington has declined.
“We continued to see no change in the vibrancy of the marketplace for our merchant teams,” Kingsbury said, adding that the amount of merchandise that is less than 30 days old is meaningfully higher than last year.
“We remain confident in our outlook and believe in our focus on evolving our off-price model and our ability to capitalize on the rapidly changing retail landscape,” Kingsbury said. “This positions us well to bring more great brands and value to our customers and increased value for our shareholders.”
Kingsbury said home represents Burlington’s largest category growth opportunity. “We finished 2017 with home at 14 percent of our total sales and we believe we can achieve a penetration level of 20 percent over time. Specifically, we have more opportunity to expand the presence of highly recognizable national brands in home and still see several key underdeveloped new categories that we have targeted for growth in 2018 and beyond.”
Beauty saw “strong momentum in the first quarter and we expect this category to be a key growth opportunity for years to come,” Kingsbury said. “We’ll continue to expand the number of brands in both designer and prestige fragrances, grow key categories in beauty accessories and enhance our assortments in cosmetics and skin care. In addition, beauty remains an important element of our gift strategy, which was a key Valentine’s Day sales driver.”
Kingsbury said the apparel comp was slightly below the chain average and home and beauty offset some of that.
He characterized ladies’ apparel as “a significant opportunity, as our penetration of 23 percent remains well below our potential 30 percent penetration goal. Missy sportswear, the largest portion of ladies’ apparel, outperformed the chain average in the first quarter. While better and active were once again standout categories in the quarter, our moderate sportswear business accelerated as well.”
He said approximately 1,200 ladies brands were added to the mix in 2017, while about the same number of less meaningful brands were edited out of the assortment.
Gross margin last quarter grew approximately 35 basis points to 41.2 percent, driven primarily by increased merchandise margin, which was slightly offset by higher freight and product sourcing costs.
Through mostly share repurchasing, there were 69 million fully diluted shares outstanding at the end of the quarter, compared with 71.5 million at the end of last year’s first quarter.