Retail sales rise for 10th straight month in April
Washington, D.C. — Retail sales rose 0.5% in April after a 0.9% increase in March, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. It was the tenth straight increase and came as consumers spent more on gasoline, clothing and autos in April.
Much of the gain in April, however, came from a surge in gasoline and food prices. Excluding a 2.7% jump in gasoline sales, the increase was a much smaller 0.2%.
Grocery stores sales jumped 1.5% — triple the March increase. That partly reflected higher food prices.
The overall gain in sales in April was the smallest increase since July. However, the government did revise up the March increase from a previous estimate of 0.4% to a much stronger 0.9% gain. February sales were also revised up to show a stronger 1.3% increase rather than the previous 1.1% increase.
The Commerce Department report was at odds with reports from 28 of the nation’s biggest retail chains, the Associated Press said. According to a survey by the International Council of Shopping Centers, these retailers enjoyed strong sales last month and over the past two months saw sales rise 5.25%, compared with the same period a year ago.
Toys‘R’Us to install North America’s largest rooftop solar power system
WAYNE, N.J. — Toys"R"Us is installing the largest rooftop solar power installation in North America at its distribution center in Flanders, N.J. Staging for the system is currently underway and construction will conclude this summer. Upon completion, the 5.38 megawatt on-site solar array will occupy 869,294 sq. ft. It is estimated to generate 72% of the electrical needs for the Toys"R"Us facility, which is the largest of the chain’s 10 DCs and covers over 1.5 million sq. ft., in addition to the roof, which spans 32 acres.
Constellation Energy will build, own and maintain the system. Toys"R"Us will purchase the electricity generated by the system from Constellation Energy through a 20-year power purchase agreement.
The Toys“R”Us solar power installation will cover nearly 70% of the distribution center’s 1,281,000-sq-ft. roof and will consist of more than 37,000 ultra lightweight Uni-Solar brand photovoltaic solar panels, manufactured by United Solar, a subsidiary of Energy Conversion Devices.
Depending on weather conditions, the system is expected to produce approximately 6,362,000 kilowatt-hours of electricity each year. Generating the same amount of electricity using non-renewable sources would result in the release of an estimated 4,387 metric tons of carbon dioxide, the equivalent emissions from 860 passenger vehicles or that of the electricity used to power 532 homes annually.
The solar power system is comprised of thin-film photovoltaic panels that are flexible, lightweight, durable and maintain performance, even in sub-optimal lighting conditions. In addition, the non-ballasted, non-penetrating and removable racking system allows access to the roof and prevents debris build-up and maintenance issues.
Beyond the solar project in Flanders, N.J., the company is making a number of sustainable upgrades to its existing stores around the country and incorporating renewable and energy efficient features into its new locations. In January 2010, a rooftop solar power system was installed at the Babies "R" Us in North Brunswick, N.J., through a partnership with the developer. It currently provides approximately 67% of the electricity needs for the location.
Kohl’s raises FY outlook on strong Q1
MENOMONEE FALLS, Wis. — Kohl’sreported that its first quarter diluted earnings per share increased 14% to 73 cents, in line with Citi and Stifel analysts expectations and with thecompany’s updated guidance that EPS would be toward the high-end of 68 cents to 73 cents (provided on May 5).Net income for the quarter was $211 million, compared with $199 million (64 cents per diluted share) a year ago. Net sales were $4.2 billion, an increase of 3.1% for the quarter. Comparable-store sales for the quarter increased 1.3%.
Kevin Mansell, Kohl’s chairman, president and CEO, said, “We are pleased that we were able to achieve double-digit growth in earnings per share through strong expense management and continued gross margin improvement."
Mansell added, “Our E-Commerce business remains on track to achieve $1 billion in sales in 2011. To achieve that goal, we will continue to invest in the business as we purchased a 3rd E-Commerce fulfillment center in Maryland that will be on-line to support holiday 2011 peak season. We have strengthened our marketing for the second quarter and believe that we will see pent-up demand for seasonal businesses which would allow us to achieve a better comp and even stronger financial results in the second quarter."
Kohl’s ended the quarter with 1,097 stores in 49 states, compared with 1,067 stores at the same time last year. During the quarter, Kohl’s successfully opened nine stores and completed the remodel of 30 stores. The company said it expects to open an additional 31 stores and remodel an additional 70 stores later this year.
For the fiscal quarter ending July 30, the company expects earnings of 96 cents to $1.02 per diluted share, which is in-line with Citi’s estimate and consensus of $1. The company also updated its guidance for fiscal 2011 to $4.25 to $4.40 per diluted share, reflecting its first quarter results and expected second quarter share repurchases, from its initial guidance of $4.05 to $4.25 per diluted share.Citi’s current 2011 EPS estimate for Kohl’s is $4.35 and consensus is $4.36.
Looking ahead to the second quarter, Stifel analysts expect pent-up demand for seasonal merchandise should drive better comps and stronger financial results at Kohl’s.