Despite improved inventory levels, J. Jill still had a difficult Q4 2019.
The retailer reported a net loss of $38.6 million, compared to net income of $2.1 million in the fourth quarter of fiscal 2018. Net sales dropped 2% to $168.1 million versus $170.9 million. Total company comparable sales, which includes same-store and direct-to-consumer sales, decreased by 2.8%.
These figures beat revised guidance J. Jill released in January 2020, when the retailer said it expected total comparable sales to decrease 6% to 8%, with total net sales expected to decrease 3% to 5%.
“Our fourth-quarter results exceeded our expectations as we continued to make progress in balancing a reduction in our inventory levels while maintaining discipline with our bottom line,” said James S. Scully, interim CEO of J. Jill Inc. While pleased to end the year with inventories better positioned, we continue to see great opportunity to instill further operating disciplines within the business. We have entered fiscal 2020 with strong focus on gross margin stabilization and recovery driven by enhanced inventory discipline and improved product assortments.”
Scully replaced former J. Jill president and CEO Linda Heasley, who left the company in December 2019 following a disappointing Q3, on an interim basis. The company is looking for a new permanent chief executive.
For the full fiscal year 2019, J. Jill reported total net sales of $691.3 million, down 2% from $706.3 million the prior fiscal year. Total company comparable sales decreased by 3.6%. Net income decreased to a loss of $128.6 million from an income of $30.5 million. Adjusted diluted earnings per share was $0.06, compared to $0.72 in the fifty-two weeks ended February 2, 2019.
For the first quarter of fiscal 2020, J. Jill expects total comparable sales to decrease 3% to 5%, compared to a decrease of 2.4% (as adjusted) for the first quarter of fiscal 2019. Total net sales are expected to decrease 2% to 4%. Diluted earnings per share are expected to be $0.06 to $0.08, compared to diluted earnings per share of $0.10 in the first quarter of fiscal 2019.
For the full 2020 fiscal year, J. Jill expects total comparable sales to decrease 3% to 5% compared to a decrease of 3.2% (as adjusted) for the full 2019 fiscal year. Total net sales are expected to decrease 2% to 4% for fiscal 2020. Adjusted earnings per share are expected to be $0.10 to $0.14, compared to adjusted diluted earnings per share of $0.06 for the full fiscal 2019 year.
Headquartered outside Boston, J. Jill operates more than 280 stores nationwide and an e-commerce platform.