FINANCE

Children’s Place Q4 earnings drop; to rename company

BY Dan Berthiaume

Secaucus, N.J. — The Children’s Place Retail Stores Thursday reported lower profit for the fourth-quarter amid intense promotions and severe storms. The retailer also said it is renaming the company.

Net earnings in the fourth quarter, ended Feb.1, fell 18% to $15.7 million, from $19.1 million in the year-ago period, which had an extra week.

Net sales in the quarter totaled $467.5 million, down from $509.2 million in the year-ago period. Same-store sales declined 4.3%.

The company cited heavy promotions and bad weather as impacting its fourth quarter earnings, and also attributed its general declining performance to factors including the 53rd week in fiscal 2012. Other factors included store impairment charges related to the continued review of underperforming stores and early closure expenses.

For the full year, Children’s Place had net sales of $1.7 billion, compared to $1.8 billion last year. Same-store sales fell 2.8%.

Net income was $53.0 million, compared to $63.2 million for the previous year.

“The Children’s Place delivered fiscal 2013 earnings near the top end of our guidance range despite an intensely promotional environment and a series of storms brought on by the polar vortex in the fourth quarter," said Jane Elfers, president and CEO. "2013 was a challenging year but we demonstrated our ability to deliver solid financial results through a combination of superior value, tight expense discipline, strong merchandise offerings that resonated with our customers and well-controlled inventories."

In 2014, the company plans to open approximately 35 stores and close 30 existing locations. Children’s Place also plans to double its international store count to about 65-70 locations, as well as close a total of 125 underperforming stores through 2016, including 41 stores, which were closed in 2013. Other plans include increasing its e-commerce business and completing the rollout of a North American ERP system.

In addition, Children’s Place will change its name from ‘The Children’s Place Retail Stores, Inc.’ to ‘The Children’s Place, Inc.’ to better reflect its strategic positioning as a global children’s brand. Other news includes the board of directors authorizing a new share repurchase program in the amount of $100 million.

Looking ahead, Children’s Place is forecasting first quarter same-store sales will decline 2% to 4% and range from flat to a 1% decline in the fiscal year.

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FINANCE

Stage Stores Q4 profit down 30%; selling Steele’s division

BY Dan Berthiaume

Houston – Stage Stores’ fiscal fourth-quarter net income plunged 30%, stung by a charge tied to the sale of its Steele’s off-price division and softer revenue. Its adjusted earnings, however, topped analysts’ estimates.

Stage Stores announced that it is selling its off-price retail division Steele’s to Hilco Global Retail Group in an equity deal.

For the quarter ended Feb. 1, Stage Stores earned $24.9 million, down from $35.8 million in the year-ago period.

Revenue fell 5% to $499.4 million from $527.9 million in the year-ago period, which included an extra week of sales. Same-store sales fell 1.1%.

For the year, Stage Stores earned $16.6 million, compared with $38.2 million, in the previous year.

Annual revenue declined 1% to $1.63 billion, from $1.65 billion. Excluding Steele’s, revenue totaled $1.61 billion.

In addition to the extra week in the prior fiscal year, Stage Stores also attributed declining earnings to consolidation of the company’s South Hill, Va., operations into its Houston headquarters and an impairment charge related to Steele’s.

“Stage Stores had many accomplishments in 2013 that will contribute to our future profitability and growth,” said Michael Glazer, president and CEO. “In addition to our many accomplishments, we also increased our quarterly dividend rate by 25%, continuing with our long tradition of returning capital to our shareholders.”

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OPERATIONS

Report: Multi-state shoplifting ring busted

BY Dan Berthiaume

Northbrook, Ill. – The U.S. Secret Service has reportedly arrested three members of a family living in Northbrook, Ill., for running a sophisticated shoplifting ring that stole items from stores ranging from Maryland to Texas during the past 10 years.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Branko Bogdanov, 58, wife Lela, 52, and their daughter, Julia, 34, have spent the past decade using specially altered clothing to steal merchandise from retailers including Startbucks, Toys “R” Us, and Barnes & Noble. The three reportedly stole $7.1 million worth of merchandise and resold it for $4.2 million on EBay. Federal authorities were alerted to unusual EBay activity and then followed the Bogdanovs on a four-day shoplifting spree through Oklahoma, Texas and Louisiana, arresting the family in New Orleans on March 4.

The family faces a charge of interstate transportation of stolen property and may face additional charges. It is unknown if any of the Bogdanovs are U.S. citizens.

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