FINANCE

Signet Jewelers has solid Q4

BY Dan Berthiaume

Hamilton, Bermuda – Net income at Signet Jewelers grew 2% to $175.2 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2014, compared to $171.8 million in the fourth quarter of the preceding fiscal year. Net sales increased 3% to $1.56 billion from $1.51 billion and same-store sales increased 4%.

During the full fiscal year, net income grew 2% to $368 million from $359.9 million and net sales improved 3% to $4.21 billion from $3.98 billion. Same-store sales rose 4%.

“I would like to thank all Signet associates for their contribution to these results,” said Mike Barnes, CEO of Signet. “In addition, and importantly, in February we negotiated and executed an agreement to acquire the Zale Corporation, which will transform the combined companies after the transaction is closed. The Zale team has done a great job turning its business around, and we are excited about the opportunities of helping to take Zale to the next level."

Signet expects same-store sales in the first quarter of fiscal 2015 to grow 3%-4%.

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FINANCE

Fred’s net income falls in Q4

BY Dan Berthiaume

Memphis, Tenn. – Fred’s Inc. reported a substantial 34.5% decrease in its net income during the fourth quarter of fiscal 2013, to $5.56 million from $8.49 million in the same quarter a year earlier. Net sales declined 7.2% to $495 million from $533.4 million, and same-store sales grew 0.1%.

Fred’s cited the impact of favorable tax credits and a 53rd week in fiscal 2012 as affecting its net income results. In addition, Fred’s attributed some of its net sales decline to severe weather, higher-than-normal utility bills, and rising generic drug costs.

"Our company’s performance in the fourth quarter reflected all the difficulties that have been cited throughout the retail sector recently as we dealt with the unusually harsh weather of the past several months and a significant 24% increase in the cost of generic drugs, which reduced gross margin by 100 basis points in our pharmacy department,” said Bruce A. Efird, CEO of Fred’s. “Operationally, we achieved earnings of $0.17 per share for the quarter.”

During the full fiscal year, Fred’s net income fell 12% to $26 million from $29.6 million and net sales dropped 0.8% to $1.94 million from $1.95 million.

Looking ahead, total sales for first quarter 2014 are expected to be flat to up 2%. Same-store sales for the first quarter are expected to be flat to down 2% reflecting poor weather conditions and weather-related store closings that have affected Lawn & Garden and other seasonal merchandise.

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REAL ESTATE

Report: Mixed-use retail center proposed for Memphis

BY Dan Berthiaume

Memphis, Tenn. – A mixed-use retail center has reportedly been proposed for downtown Memphis. According to the Memphis Daily News, the 10,500-sq.-ft., two-story building would contain office, restaurant and café space, as well as a potential convenience store.

The development has also been approved for two drive-thru windows. It is located on the northeast corner of South Third Street and East Butler Avenue and has already been cleared. The developer is Compton, Calif.-based Inner Vision Memphis Inc. The Downtown Memphis Commission has publicly opposed the specific design of the center while saying it does support retail space there, and the Memphis Office of Planning and Development, which approved the drive-thru window request, has recommended the development include a piece of art installed in a pedestrian plaza.

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