News

Stage Stores profits edge up slightly in Q4

BY Staff Writer

Houston — Profits at apparel retailer Stage Stores rose 2% to $32.7 million during the fourth quarter, from $32 million a year earlier.

Revenue increased 6% to $479.1 million from $453.7 million, beating Wall Street’s $468.2 million forecast.

For the year, Stage Stores reported net income of $31 million, down from $37.6 million in the prior year. Annual revenue climbed 3% to $1.51 billion.

Commenting on the company’s fourth quarter results, Andy Hall, president and CEO, stated, “We are pleased that we met our sales expectations for the fourth quarter; however, despite a 22% increase in earnings per share, we fell short of our bottom-line goal. Our results are a reflection of the highly promotional business environment that was prevalent throughout the quarter. We increased our promotional activities in an effort to respond to our customers needs and to maintain our inventories at an appropriate level. Our heightened promotional activities, coupled with our inability to pass through most of the fall cost increases, negatively impacted our merchandise margins and led to an 80 basis point decline in the gross profit rate. Importantly, we were able to control our SG&A expenses, and achieved a 40 basis point drop in the SG&A rate while operating 27 more stores versus last year.”

For the fiscal year 2012, the company is projecting comparable-store sales to be in a range of flat to up 2%.

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FINANCE

Children’s Place Q4 income down; to open 60 stores on 2012

BY Staff Writer

Secaucus, N.J. — The Children’s Place Retail Stores reported a drop in fourth-quarter net income from continuing operations after tax to $24.2 million, from $32.7 million in the year-ago period.

The chain said fourth-quarter sales performance was negatively impacted by the unseasonably warm weather this winter.

"Fiscal 2011 was a very productive year, despite the disappointing fourth quarter. The unseasonably warm weather forced us to take aggressive markdowns to clear winter apparel and these discounts, coupled with record high apparel costs, significantly impacted our fourth quarter margin and earnings," commented Jane Elfers, president and CEO. "On the positive side, comparable-store sales increased for the second consecutive quarter in our US Place stores and our e-commerce business grew double digits. In addition, our average unit retail increased high single digits across all channels and merchandise divisions during the quarter. We believe this demonstrates continued customer acceptance of our merchandise direction.

For the fiscal year, net sales increased 2.5% to $1.71 billion in fiscal 2011, compared with $1.67 billion in fiscal 2010. Comparable-retail sales for fiscal 2011 declined 2.5%.

Income from continuing operations after tax was $77.2 million in fiscal 2011 compared with $83.6 million in fiscal 2010.

The company closed 27 stores during fourth quarter 2011. During fiscal 2011, Children’s Place opened 88 stores and closed 34, ending the year with 1,049 stores. The company said it expects to open 60 new stores in fiscal 2012 and close 35.

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News

Consumer sentiment slips in March

BY CSA STAFF

YONKERS, N.Y. — After three consecutive months of improvement, the Consumer Reports Index for March slipped to 46.1, from 49.6 last month.

March’s Consumer Reports Index measures overall consumer financial health and showed that the confidence of the American consumer is waning.

Further challenging consumer confidence, The Trouble Tracker Index increased slightly this month to 52.2 from 49.1 in February, and is now at its highest level since August 2011.

Retail has yet to regain its footing after holidays, as Americans continue to pull back on spending. Consumer Reports Past 30-Day Retail Index fell slightly to 11.5 from 11.8 last month, a pattern similar to last year. Planned purchasing over the next 30 days, reflecting anticipated March activity, is 8.7, up from 7.1 the prior month, seeding hopes for an upturn in the near term.

"Consumers are not yet comfortable in their financial situation as the country limps into its fifth year of near-recessionary times," said Ed Farrell, director of the Consumer Reports National Research Center. "Weak retail is the symptom, not an underlying cause. Consumers will need a clear signal led by a greatly improved jobs outlook to resume spending."

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