Ross issues weak outlook despite beating earnings
Ross on Tuesday reported fourth quarter earnings were down nearly 2% to $442 million, compared to $451 million in the year-ago period. Total sales in the quarter were $4.1 billion, while same-store sales were up 4%. The company reported earnings per share for the quarter were $1.20, which beat FactSet's estimates of $1.12 a share on sales of $4.1 billion, as cited by MarketWatch.
The off-price retailer's Q4 operating margin was 13.2%, a 135 basis point decline from last year, which CFO Michael Hartshorn told analysts was due to the benefits the company experienced from a 53-week fiscal year in 2017, according to a transcript from The Motley Fool. Operating margin for the full year was down 85 basis points to 13.6% due to "last year's 20 basis point benefit from the 53rd week."
The company's Q1 guidance looked less-than-stellar. Ross expects comp sales for the quarter to be flat to up to 2%, which caused shares to fall late Tuesday evening, according to MarketWatch.
While off-price is a category that continues to perform well, Ross's "prudent" outlook for the quarter sent stocks down on Tuesday.
"Although we remain favorably positioned as an off-price retailer, we face our own difficult sales and earnings comparisons, a very competitive retail landscape, and an uncertain macro-economic and political environment," CEO Barbara Rentler said in a statement.
However, Rentler said on a call with analysts that the company's lower Q1 guidance was due to its underperforming ladies apparel business.
"The ladies apparel business got off course because we didn't have the right balance of our assortments in certain categories within the total apparel business. So as a result, we left some money on the table in seasonal areas of the business," she said.
For fiscal 2019, however, the company plans to grow sales 5% to 6%, and add 75 Ross stores and 25 dd's Discounts stores (22 Ross stores and 6 dd's Discounts stores in the first quarter). The company also plans to shutter or relocate 10 additional stores, according to Hartshorn.