Macy's Inc. (NYSE: M) on Tuesday maintained its current forecast for 2014, despite slow sales, and reported fiscal fourth-quarter earnings rose to $811 million, or $2.16 a share, compared with $730 million, or $1.83 per share, a year ago. Sales for the three months ended Feb. 1 totaled $9.2 billion, down 1.6 percent from total sales of $9.35 billion in the same quarter of 2012.
Wall Street had expected the retailer to issue quarterly earnings of $2.17 on revenue of $9.27 billion, according to analysts polled by Reuters.
On Tuesday, shares of Macy's jumped 6.01 percent to close at $56.25. The stock edged up 0.43 percent to $56.49 in after-hours trading.
“While we had expected a sales decline in January because of the calendar shift, the month was down further than we had expected and we are very disappointed with sales performance in January,” said Terry J. Lundgren, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Macy’s Inc. “In part, poor January sales were due to the unusually harsh winter weather across much of the country. At one time or another during January, 244 Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s stores were closed because of weather, and the business remained sluggish until Valentine’s Day.”
Despite the harsh weather conditions, Macy's issued its fifth consecutive year of double-digit growth in earnings-per-share. Excluding items, earnings were $2.31 a share for the fourth-quarter. For the full year in 2013, earnings came in at $3.86 per diluted share, or $4.00 excluding items, exceeding the company’s initial guidance provided at the beginning of the year in the range of $3.90 to $3.95 per share. Comparable sales for fiscal 2013 grew by 1.9 percent.
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“Terry Lundgren is one of the best executives in that space. That’s a pretty vicious and transient industry. So a guy like Terry Lundgren doesn’t stick around for long unless he knows what he’s doing,” said Keith Bliss, senior vice president and director of sales & marketing at Cuttone & Co. Inc. “He’s absolutely getting ahead of it. I think he’s able to see the weakness. It’s not unusual for those large retailers, Macy’s, Kohl’s, Target and the like to lay a bunch of people off in January because the Christmas selling season is over and they need to right-size their staff.”
The department store in January announced a cost-cutting plan, estimated to generate savings of approximately $100 million per year, and the company expects to lay off nearly 2,500 employees and close five stores in early spring 2014.
“What was more interesting was I thought in the announcement that they made back in January was that they’re closing five stores. Now some of those stores may have laggards in areas of the country where the demographics may have changed and they’re just not going to sell, but that’s the one thing that made me sit up and take notice,” Bliss said. “Paring back staff inside of an individual store is the right thing to do post-Christmas, but actually closing stores and thinking about your brick-and-mortar business in that realm is something entirely different. I think Macy’s and Terry Lundgren see something into the future, even though today’s report they did reaffirm their guidance for the entire year, I’m going to be real curious to see in the second and third quarter when they report if they’re actually going to get there through revenue growth, or are they going to get there through expenses reduction. That’s the real question that we’re going to have with Macy’s.”
Macy's, which also owns the Bloomingdale's chain, maintained its current full-year forecast and expects a profit of $4.40 to $4.50 a share in 2014, with comparable sales growth of 2.5 percent to 3 percent for the fiscal year.
“The other retailers, I think, are in the same boat,” Bliss added. “You see Wal-Mart reported last week, and they are not confident at all in 2014. Now theirs is a little different story because a large segment of their revenue comes from the SNAP [food stamp] program. Which is the supplemental nutritional assistance program here in the United States, and that’s being pared back in 2013 and it’s going to be pared back again in 2014. So they have a little bit of a different issue.”
Last week, Wal-Mart Stores, Inc. (NYSE:WMT) reported profit for the fiscal fourth-quarter fell 21 percent to $4.4 billion, or $1.34 per share, compared with earnings of $5.6 billion a year earlier. Revenue rose 1.5 to $129.7 billion.
The world's largest retailer said on Feb. 20 it expects a profit of $5.10 to $5.45 per share this year, compared with analysts’ expectations of $5.54 a share, according to Reuters.
Wal-Mart stock is currently trading around $73.35 per share.
“Some of the other retailers that don’t necessarily depend on the SNAP assistance program so much for their revenue, their issue is going to be the cash-strapped consumer,” said Bliss. “We’re seeing a lot of evidence of that. Numbers are going to start to come down. It could be a very challenging year for retailers.”
Other notable company’s reporting earnings this week include Target Corporation (NYSE:TGT), J.C. Penney Company, Inc. (NYSE:JCP) and Lowe's Companies Inc. (NYSE:LOW) on Wednesday, followed by Best Buy Co. Inc. (NYSE:BBY), Kohl's Corporation (NYSE:KSS) and The Gap Inc. (NYSE:GPS) on Thursday.