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Big Lots ends year on a strong note

After a slow start, Big Lots came roaring back in the fourth quarter with earnings and same-store sales that beat analysts estimates.

The retailer reported income of $108.0 million, or $2.68 per diluted share, for the quarter ended Feb. 2, up from $104.8 million, or $2.46 per diluted share, in the year-ago period. Adjusted earnings came in at $2.57 per diluted share. (The fourth quarter of fiscal 2017 included an extra week of operations.)

Net sales totaled $1.598 billion, down from $1.640 billion last year. Same-store sales rose 3.1%. (Sales were affected by a lower store count year-over-year and the extra week in fiscal 2017.)

“After a slow start to the quarter, we experienced meaningful sales acceleration in December and January driving fourth quarter sales and earnings above the high end of our guidance,” said Bruce Thorn, president and CEO, Big Lots. “Our holiday plans were well executed and led to broad based growth across the majority of our merchandise categories and a comp store sales increase in excess of 3% for the second consecutive quarter. Our merchandise category results were supplemented by continued strong performance in our store of the future remodel efforts and our marketing and stores' focus on growth of our Rewards loyalty program."

In December, Thorn noted, Big Lots hired a consultative firm to help it take “an outside in view of our business and there was significant progress and learnings achieved during the quarter.” On the chain’s earnings call, he said that Big Lots has developed a three-year playbook that will have it double down on the main elements consumers recognize the retailer for: price, value, and treasure hunt. He also said the company will accelerate its rollout of its store-of-the-future format and expand its BOPIS program as it also expands its online offerings.

For fiscal 2018, income totaled $156.9 million, or $3.83 per diluted share. Excluding non-recurring expenses associated with the retirement of our former CEO and the settlement of shareholder litigation matters, adjusted income for the full year period totaled $165.6 million, or $4.04 per diluted share (non-GAAP), compared to adjusted income of $192.5 million, or $4.45 per diluted share (non-GAAP), for fiscal 2017.

Comparable-store sales increased 1.2% for fiscal 2018. Net sales for fiscal 2018 were $5.238 billion million compared to $5.264 billion with the decrease resulting from a lower store count year-over-year and the extra week of operations in fiscal 2017, partially offset by the 1.2% comparable store sales increase.

Big Lots operates 1,401 stores in 47 states.
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