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Lowe’s Q4 profit up 6%; 20 new stores planned

BY Dan Berthiaume

Mooresville, N.C. – Customer interest in core home improvement categories helped lift profits at Lowe’s Companies Inc. during the fourth quarter and fiscal year 2013.

Lowe’s fourth quarter earnings rose 6% to $306 million from $282 million in the year-ago period. Full year net earnings climbed 17% to $2.29 billion from $1.96 billion.

Quarterly net sales grew 5.5% to $11.66 billion from $11.04 billion. Annual net sales increased 6% to $53.41 billion from $50.52 billion. Same-store sales rose 3.9% during the quarter and 4.8% during the year.

Looking ahead, during fiscal 2014 Lowe’s plans to open approximately 15 home improvement stores and five neighborhood hardware stores. The retailer expects total sales to increase 5% and same-store sales to grow 4%.

"I am pleased with the progress we made throughout 2013, and would like to thank our employees,” said Robert A. Niblock, Lowe’s chairman, president and CEO. “They have shown unrelenting determination to provide outstanding service to customers every day in each market we serve, as we transform our company. During the quarter, we delivered solid performance in core home improvement categories, balancing softer sales of seasonal gifts and holiday decorations. When extreme winter weather arrived late in the quarter, our distribution network responded quickly and efficiently to move product where it was most needed.”

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Barnes & Noble swings to Q3 profit, plans new Nook

BY Dan Berthiaume

New York – Barnes & Noble swung from a net loss in the third quarter of fiscal 2013 to a net profit in the third quarter of fiscal 2014, even as revenues dropped.

Net earnings in the third quarter totaled $63.2 million, compared to a $3.7 million net loss in the same period a year earlier. Total revenues dropped 10.3% to $1.99 billion from $2.22 billion. A 50% revenue drop in the company’s Nook segment helped drive the overall decline, although all the company’s retail and college verticals also reported revenue drops.

Despite the decline in Nook revenue, Barnes & Noble said it is negotiating with several hardware partners and plans to release a new color Nook device in early fiscal 2015.

Michael P. Huseby, CEO of Barnes & Noble, said good titles, textbook rentals and a clearing out of Nook inventory helped produce a profit.

“During the third quarter, the company significantly improved its balance sheet and bottom line, while making real progress on our strategic priorities,” said Huseby. “Retail’s core same-store store sales benefited from a strong title line-up, strong execution and an effective advertising campaign. College entered into the spring back-to-school rush and saw continued growth in its higher-margin textbook rental business. Nook losses narrowed significantly as we achieved our objective of selling through much of our pre-holiday device inventory, while managing promotions to optimize sales.”

The company reaffirmed its previously issued full-year guidance, in which it expects retail same-store sales to decline in the high single digits, core retail same-bookstore sales to decline in the low- to mid-single digits and college same-store sales to decline in the low single digits.

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Abercrombie’s Q4 profit plunges 58% but still tops Street; accelerates buyback

BY Dan Berthiaume

New Albany, Ohio – Abercrombie & Fitch Co.’s fourth-quarter net income plunged 58%, less than Wall Street expected, amid several one-time charges, including costs tied to the closure of its Gilly Hicks’ stores. The company’s board also approved a $150 million accelerated share repurchase plan, to be executed during the first quarter.

For the quarter ended Feb 1, Abercrombie’s income fell to $66.1 million from $157.2 in the year-ago period. For the full year, income declined 77% to $54.6 million from $237 million last year.

Net sales dropped 12% to $1.3 billion during the quarter. Same-store sales, including direct-to-consumer sales, fell 8%. By brand, same-store sales fell 6% for Abercrombie & Fitch, were down 8% for Abercrombie Kids and down10% for Hollister Co.

For the full fiscal year, sales declined 9% to $4.11 billion.

The retailer said it anticipates opening 16 full-price international stores throughout fiscal 2014, including an Abercrombie & Fitch flagship store in Shanghai in April 2014 and a small number of namesake mall-based stores.

In addition, the company plans to open a small number of international and U.S. outlet-based stores during the fiscal year. The company also expects to close approximately 60 to 70 stores in the U.S. during the fiscal year through natural lease expirations.

Abercrombie & Fitch cited the closure of 24 Gilly Hicks stores in the fourth quarter, as well as other asset impairment charges and charges related to its profit improvement initiative, as significantly reducing its reported net income.

“2013 was a challenging year, with sales and earnings falling well short of the objectives we set at the beginning of the year,” said Mike Jeffries, CEO of Abercrombie & Fitch. “After three years of positive growth in our combined U.S. chain stores plus direct-to-consumer comparable sales metric, that metric turned negative in 2013 against the backdrop of a challenging retail environment, particularly in the teen space. It is important that we return to positive growth, particularly in our core U.S. business, and the steps we are taking as we execute against our long-range strategic plan should put us in a position to achieve this goal.”

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