C-SUITE

Hibbett Sports on hunt for CEO; to close 95 stores

BY Marianne Wilson

Hibbett Sports is losing its chief executive.

The sporting goods retailer announced that Jeff Rosenthal plans to retire as president and CEO once a successor is named. A 21-year company veteran, Rosenthal was named to the top position nine years ago. Hibbett is starting the search to find a new chief.

“He [Rosenthal] has worked tirelessly over the past several years leading the company in a very difficult retail environment,” said Mickey Newsome, chairman. “He has created a foundation for the company’s success as we move forward, and we thank him.”

Hibbett also announced that it will close about 95 stores in its current fiscal year while opening 10 to 15 Hibbett and City Gear stores as it continues to adopt to “changing shopping patterns.” (Hibbett acquired the 135-store City Gear chain, which has more of a fashion-forward emphasis, in October.) The company had a total of 1,163 in 35 states as of February 2, 2019.

Hibbett revealed the store closings along with its fourth quarter earnings and sales, both of which easily topped Street estimates, fueled partially by strong online sales. The retailer also provided an upbeat outlook.

Net income totaled $6.6 million, or 36 cents a share, for the quarter ended Feb. 2, amid higher costs and expenses. It was down from $9.7 million, or 51 cents a share in the year-ago period, which had an extra week. Adjusted earnings per share were 57 cents, besting the 39 cents analysts had expected.

Sales rose to $306.0 million from $266.7 million, topping estimates of $280 million. Online sales surged 60% to 10.6% of total sales in the quarter. Same-store sales rose 3.8%, also better than expected.

Net sales for the 52-week period ended February 2, 2019, increased 4.2% to $1.0 billion compared with $968.2 million for the 53-week period a year ago. Same- store sales increased 2.2%.

“We are seeing significant improvement in web traffic and good traction with Buy Online, Pickup in Store (BOPIS) and improvements to our mobile app,” Rosenthal stated. “At the same time, we continue to improve the productivity of our store base by closing unproductive stores and positioning the City Gear banner to drive sales for the fashion consumer.”

Hibbett expects adjusted earnings per share of $1.80 to $2.00 for fiscal 2020, which is above analysts’ estimates of $1.74.

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