FINANCE

Christopher & Banks names chief stores officer; to close 30 to 40 stores

BY Marianne Wilson

Christopher & Banks on Tuesday reported disappointing third quarter amid supply chain problems, and updated its store portfolio analysis.

The women’s apparel retailer also announced it has appointed Carmen Wamre as senior VP, chief stores officer, effective Dec. 10. She brings with her more than 28 years of retail experience, including 19 years as zone VP, Express, where she oversaw operations for 300 plus retail stores.

On a quarterly call with analysts, Christopher & Banks CFO Richard Bundy said the company has nearly completely a deep dive into its real estate portfolio. Based on its findings, the retailer is “rationalizing” its store base and plan to close 30 to 40 stores over the next two and a half years. The closings will start at the end of 2019 as leases expire. (As of Dec. 4, the company operates 461 stores in 45 states.)

Christopher & Banks reported a loss of $8.817 million, or 24 cents per share in the quarter ended Nov. 3, compared to a loss of $1.622, or 5 cents per share, in the year-ago period.   Losses, adjusted for asset impairment costs and severance costs, were 15 cents per share.

Net sales fell 7.3% to $91.3 million in the quarter ended Nov.3, while operating on average 461 stores. This compares to $98.5 million in net sales in the year-ago period, while operating on average 473 stores.

Same-store sales decreased 7.5%. eCommerce sales increased 10.7%.

The retailer said its third quarter results were adversely impacted by the combination of shipment delays and lower planned levels of inventory, which resulted in an average of 17% less inventory on hand than in last year’s third quarter.

“In addition, moving through excess spring/summer merchandise inventory was more challenging than the prior year and created meaningful pressure on our gross margin,” said Keri Jones, president and CEO. “Notably, as newer merchandise arrived in stores, we have been encouraged by the response as these deliveries have been resonating with our customers.”

Jones sounded more positive notes in her statement, saying quarter-to-date, the company is seeing positive comparable sales coupled with gross margin expansion.

“Importantly, the abundance of work we have done over the last eight months, focused on strengthening our merchandising strategy, developing a more impactful marketing approach and enhancing our omni-channel capabilities, are beginning to bear fruit,” she said. “At the same time, we continue to make progress in advancing process improvement initiatives and reducing costs.”

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FINANCE

AutoZone comes out of the gate fast as earnings surge

BY Marianne Wilson

AutoZone topped Wall Street’s first-quarter earning estimates amid an acceleration of its commercial growth and a solid performance from its DIY business.

Net income surged 25.1% to $351.4 million, or $13.47 a share, for the period ended from $281.0 million, or $10.00 a share, from the year-ago period. Analysts had expected earnings per share of $12.21.

Sales increased to $2.64 billion fro $2.59 billion, in line with estimates. Same-store sales rose a better-than-expected 2.7%.

“Our industry fundamentals remain strong and we continue to be excited about the initiatives we have underway to further enhance our inventory availability, to continue to accelerate commercial and to meet our customers how, when and where they want to be met with our omni-channel initiatives,” said Bill Rhodes, chairman, president and CEO. “As we continue to invest in our business, we remain committed to our disciplined approach of increasing operating earnings and cash flow, and utilizing our balance sheet and capital effectively.”

As of November 17, 2018, the company had 5,631 stores in 50 states in the U.S., the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, 567 stores in Mexico, and 20 stores in Brazil for a total store count of 6,218.

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Dollar General Q3 tops Street; reveals 2019 store plans

BY Marianne Wilson

Dollar General reported better-than-expected third quarter sales and earnings, but cut its full-year outlook on hurricane-related costs.

The discounter also revealed its expansion plans for the upcoming year. It plans to undertake some 2,075 real estate projects in 2019, including 975 new store openings (up from 900 in 2018), 1,000 mature store remodels, and 100 store relocations.

“We remain very excited about our future real estate growth opportunities,” said CEO Todd Vasos. “We believe our ongoing investment in high-return real estate projects, along with our strategic initiatives, will not only continue to drive long-term shareholder value, but will also allow us to further enhance our ability to serve our communities and our customers.

Dollar General’s net income rose to $334.1 million, or $1.26 a share, for the quarter ended Nov. 2, from $252.5 million, or 93 cents a share, in the same period a year ago. Excluding a 5 cents-per-share negative impact from hurricane-related expenses, earnings per share came in at $1.31. Analysts had expected earnings per share of $1.27.

“As a result of the third quarter hurricanes and other disasters, we will record greater-than-anticipated expenses in the second half of 2018,” said John Garratt, Dollar General’s CFO. “In total, the impact to third quarter EPS was an estimated $0.05 per diluted share and we expect to see an additional estimated $0.04 impact on our fourth quarter diluted EPS. We have adjusted our full-year outlook to reflect the estimated $0.09 impact of these events, ongoing transportation cost pressures and year-to-date results.”

Third quarter sales increased 8.7% to $6.42 billion, above estimates of $6.39 billion. Same-store sales rose a better-than-expected 2.7%, driven by an increase in average transaction amount and positive results in the consumables, seasonal and home categories. Customer traffic was essentially flat, the company said.

For fiscal 2018, Dollar General lowered its sales growth outlook to just 9.0% from 9.0% to 9.3% and cut its earnings per share guidance to $5.85 to $6.05 from $5.95 to $6.15. It expects same-store sales growth to be in the middle of the previous range of mid-to-high two percent.

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