FINANCE

Williams-Sonoma Q4 tops estimates as online surges 11.5%; ups dividend

BY Marianne Wilson

San Francisco — Williams-Sonoma reported a better-than-expected profit of $133.8 million in the fourth quarter, up slightly from $133.7 million in the year-ago period. The company also announced it is lifting its dividend 2 cents, or 6%, to 33 cents a share.

“Williams-Sonoma, Inc. outperformed the retail industry this holiday season, gaining market share and demonstrating the structural advantage of our multi-brand, multichannel platform,” said Laura Alber, president and CEO. “The strength of our brands across retail and e-commerce, in conjunction with disciplined execution, enabled our team to drive record operating results.”

Revenue for the quarter, which ended February 2, 2014, and had one less week than last year, rose 4.3% to $1.47 billion. Online sales surged 11.5% to $706.4 million. (E-commerce represented 44% of the company’s net revenues in fiscal 2013.)

“Our multichannel marketing, built from decades of data analytics experience, enables us to reach our customers and attract new ones in increasingly relevant ways,” Alber said.

Total same-store sales in the fourth quarter increased 10.4%. By brand, West Elm was on top, with 18.3% growth, while Pottery Barn’s sales were up 14.6%. Williams-Sonoma’s namesake stores posted a 2.3% increase. Pottery Barn Kids and PBteen were up 11.2% and 9.6%, respectively.

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MARKETING/SOCIAL MEDIA

Sephora launches new social shopping platform

BY Marianne Wilson

San Francisco — Sephora has launched a new social shopping platform, called Beauty Board, to engage customers through beauty images and allow them to post, share, browse and shop the company’s photo gallery directly on its web site, mobile site, iPhone and Android apps. Shoppers will be able to upload photos, tag the products they use, and give helpful tips on how they achieved the look.

"Our beauty lovers are gathering and sharing beauty tips across a variety of social properties like Instagram and Pinterest, as well as our blog and beauty community site," said Julie Bornstein, executive VP, chief marketing and digital officer at Sephora. "So we took what we admire as social users to the next level by developing and integrating our newest social site, Beauty Board, into our Sepora.com experience.”

Bornstein explained that Sephora shoppers can now share looks or hauls, and tag all of the products they used to make shopping easy for the entire beauty community.

“Best of all we designed Beauty Board to seamlessly connect with our clients’ other social platforms, providing an informative and social shopping experience for all," she said.

Using their current Sephora.com account information or signing up for a new account, customers will be able to create their own social accounts on Beauty Board that will allow them to upload and tag their own beauty images.

The new platform will simultaneously launch on desktop and mobile at the same time, making it easy for users to upload their photos via their mobile devices.

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FINANCE

Stein Mart to open 10 stores

BY Dan Berthiaume

Jacksonville, Fla. – Stein Mart Inc. reported drops in net income and sales during the fourth quarter of fiscal 2013, which it mainly attributed to the year-ago period having one extra week. The retailer remains optimistic as it plans to open 10 new stores and six relocated stores in fiscal 2014.

Fourth quarter net income dropped 42% to $7.4 million from $13.1 million compared to the same period in the prior year, while total sale declined 2% to $360.8 million from $368.6 million. In one bright note, same-store sales grew 3.1%.

Of Stein Mart’s 10 new stores, three stores will open in the spring, one in March and two in May. Seven stores will open in the fall, six in October and one in November. Two store closings were completed in February.

For the year, net income was $25.6 million, 2% higher than $25 million in the prior year. Total sales rose 2% to $1.26 billion, from $1.23 billion. Same-store sales increased 3.1%.

"I am very pleased with our exceptional results this year. We improved our business in 2013 through a number of key initiatives, including enhancing our merchandise and brands, launching our online store, more effective marketing, taking our supply chain distribution centers in-house and growing our credit card program," said Jay Stein, CEO. "For 2014, we will continue to build upon these achievements, while initiating our most aggressive store opening plan in more than 10 years with 16 new and relocated stores, to even better serve our customers and grow returns for our investors."

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