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Holiday scorecard Part II: More winners and losers revealed


Another batch of retailers released holiday results this week and provided further evidence that an unusual blend of economic factors and evolving shopping behaviors made for a strange holiday season.

Last week’s Holiday Scorecard looked at 20 companies who reported results that shed light on their holiday performance and the impact on profitability with some sharing an outlook on January and first quarter trends. As with those companies, the 12 retailers sharing results this week offered a mixed bag and saw their performance impacted by the cross currents of the warmest holiday season ever, low fuel prices and seeming improvement in the labor market offset by a lack of wage growth. As retailers sought to increase sales against this backdrop, they had to cope with expense pressures related to executing omnichannel strategies and an increasingly competitive marketplace.

The following is a look at how some notable companies fared.

Ollie’s Bargain Outlet: “Thrilled,” is how Mark Butler, chairman, president and CEO described the discounter retailer’s holiday sales and business trends. A 5.6% same-store sales increase during the nine weeks ended Jan. 2, exceeded the company’s expectation of 4% growth and prompted the company to declare full year earnings per share would total 69 cents, better than guidance of 63 cents to 66 cents. “Our customers know a bargain when they see it, and they responded very favorably to our product offering over the nine week period,” Butler said. The comp increased coupled with the addition of 28 new stores is expected to result in total annual sales of $760 million at a company that went public last year.

Big Lots: The nation’s largest operator of closeout stores said it expects to achieve its same store sales guidance of a 1% to 2% increase for its fourth quarter and also affirmed its full year profit forecast for earning per share in the range of $1.95 to $2. “Our strategy focusing on ownable, winnable merchandise categories, on-point marketing messages, and improved store execution is working,” said President and CEO David Campisi. Overall, the merchant, planning, and operations teams have executed our plan well in a highly competitive retail environment.”

Burlington Stores: If any company had a weather-related excuse for a bad fourth it would have been Burlington (don’t call us Coat Factory) Stores, but that wasn’t the case. Same-store sales for the period ended Jan. 30 are expected to be flat, versus guidance of flat to up 1%. In affirming the company’s profit forecast, president and CEO Tom Kingsbury said, a strong response to gift assortments especially in fragrances, bath and body and home, offset understandable weakness in outwear. “Notwithstanding the weather, our execution of the off price model continues to pay dividends for us as evidenced by the fact that our comp store sales, excluding cold weather categories, are expected to increase approximately 4% in the fourth quarter,” Kingsbury said.

Boot Barn: Warm weather and exposure to markets where customers’ disposable incomes have been hurt by the downturn in the oil and gas industry led to weakness at Boot Barn. The company said its third quarter same-store sales were likely to decline 2%, compared to earlier expectations for a low single digit increase during the period ended Dec. 26. No surprise then that the company reduced its profit forecast to a range of 43 cents to 44 cents from 47 cents to 49 cents. CEO Jim Conroy said comp declines in October and November turned flat in December, noting, “we managed our merchandise levels prudently, resulting in a healthy and clean inventory position as we entered the fourth quarter, which is off to a strong start in the first two weeks.”

Stage Stores: Trouble in the oil patch caused Stage Store to report a 2.5% decline in same-store sales for the period ended Jan. 9, which the company said was in line with it expectations. In addition to warm weather and the company’s exposure to markets where the economy has been negatively affect by the downturn in the energy sector, Stage Stores also invoked weakness of the Mexican Peso as a source of sales challenges at its 844 department stores. “We responded to soft traffic and a highly competitive environment with increased promotions and markdowns,” said President and CEO Michael Glazer.

Build-A-Bear Workshop: The fourth quarter is usually Build-A-Bear’s most profitable, but that wasn’t the case this year. Sales built slowly in December, which prompted a warning from the company that same-store sales would decline 5.5% (4.1% in North America) during the period ended Jan. 2, and profits would be well below the prior year. Even so, Sharon Price John, CEO of the 400 unit company, took a big picture view of the company’s performance. “By remaining focused on our long range objectives, we expect fiscal 2015 to deliver our third consecutive year of positive consolidated comparable sales and our third consecutive year of improved profit performance,” John said. “Looking forward, we expect to deliver continued profitability improvement as well as revenue growth in 2016 through the on-going disciplined execution of our stated strategy.”

Genesco: The parent company of Journeys, Lids and Johnston & Murphy said its total same store sales increased 5% for the quarter ended Jan. 2. Chairman, president and CEO Robert Dennis said the company was pleased with the top line performance of all its businesses during what the entire retail universe has acknowledged was a difficult holiday season. “We are especially pleased with the strong performance at Journeys, which delivered another exceptional holiday season.” Even so, the company reduced its full year profit forecast to a range of $4.30 to $4.40 per share from earlier guidance of $4.50 to $4.60 per share due to a major and ongoing liquidation of inventory at the Lids stores.

Ascena Retail Group: Same-store sales declined 15% at this company’s Justice brand stores during the six week period ended Jan. 3. That caused a total company comp decline of 4% even though the performance at other brands such as Lane Bryant, Ann Taylor, Maurices and Dressbarn was much better and allowed the company to affirm its full year profit forecast. President and CEO of the roughly 5,000 store chain, David Jaffe, said the decline at Justice was planned as the brand look to transition to Spring assortments.

Express: This operator of 650 predominantly mall-based stores said it expects fourth quarter same-store sales to increase 3% and that pleased president and CEO David Kornberg. “The solid performance we experienced over Thanksgiving continued through December and into early January as customers responded enthusiastically to our assortment.” As a result, the company adjusted its profit forecast to a range of 63 cents to 64 cents from an earlier guidance range of 60 cents to 64 cents.

New York & Company: This specialty apparel retail had a respectable holiday season with same-store sales advancing 1.6% for the 10 week period ended Jan 9. However, warm weather caused weaker demand for cold weather products, which CEO Gregory Scott said would cause sales and margins to be toward the low end of prior guidance. “We were also pleased to see many positives in the qua

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